USWNT slides past Canada in penalty shootout to reach Gold Cup final

The U.S. won 2-2 (3-1 penalties), with Alyssa Naeher saving three attempts and making one herself.


SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 06: Sophia Smith #11 of the United States shoots and scores as Vanessa Gilles #14 of Canada defends during extra time of the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup semifinals at Snapdragon Stadium on March 06, 2024 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Talk about peak Concacaf.

Usually Mother Nature creates rough wet pitches during games held in the Caribbean islands, but this time it was San Diego's turn.

The pitch at Snapdragon Stadium, home of the San Diego Wave, played a significant role in the U.S. women's national team beating Canada 2-2 (3-1 penalties) on Wednesday to advance to the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup Final.

Formations and tactics can't be too overanalyzed in games like these. It essentially boils down to which team benefited from the most luck, if any.

The USWNT benefited first in the 20th minute through rising left winger Jaedyn Shaw, who capitalized off a failed back pass by defender Vanessa Gilles that stopped early due to the pitch.

The goal meant the 19-year-old Shaw, who plays for the Wave, became the first player in USWNT history to score a goal in each of her first four starts.

The U.S. stayed the better team for the first half, but couldn't find the crucial second goal.

That came to bite the U.S. in the second half, when Canada gradually grew into the game and started getting at Alyssa Naeher more often.

Canada eventually equalized in the 82nd minute, but it came via a well-crafted goal rather than the bounce of the ball. Right midfielder Ashley Lawrence sent a curling cross into the box that Jordyn Huitema headed in after leaping over Emily Fox, giving Naeher no chance.

With the score knotted at 1-1 to end regulation, the game shifted to two periods of overtime as both teams searched for a winner before a potential penalty shootout.

The U.S. scored in the first 15 minutes thanks to two substitutes combining route-one style. Rose Lavelle flicked a header that Sophia Smith got to first before slotting it past Kailen Sheridan.

But just when it looked like the U.S. would see out the game in the second 15, Naeher gave away a penalty in the lone minute of stoppage time after clashing her gloves onto Gilles' face. Right winger Adriana Leon then sent Naeher the wrong way to force a shootout.

Naeher avenged her mistake in a commendable way, saving three of Canada's four attempts while converting the USWNT's third. The U.S. won the shootout 3-1, with Smith and Lindsey Horan also netting.

The result means the USWNT will face Brazil in the final on Sunday, March 10. Kick-off time from San Diego is slated for 8:15 p.m. ET/5:15 p.m. PT.

USMNT soccer legend Tim Howard as he delves into the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympic soccer competition while addressing the challenges faced by U.S. Soccer on the Olympic stage.
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