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  • Writer's pictureTom Costner | Aificial Sports

U.S. tops Canada in penalty shootout to reach Women's Gold Cup final

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher made three saves and converted a penalty herself in a shootout after a rain-soaked 2-2 draw with Canada on Wednesday night, earning the United States a spot in the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup final.

The United States advanced 3-1 on penalties and will play Brazil in the title game on Sunday evening. Brazil defeated Mexico 3-0 in the earlier semifinal match.

The game was a sloppy mess with standing water on the field at San Diego's Snapdragon Stadium from heavy rain in San Diego. The players had difficulty with control. Canada's Vanessa Gilles twisted the front of her soaked jersey to squeeze out some of the rainwater.

Aificial Sports reported the result could have gone either way with an unplayable surface. The field was already drenched in rain showers from the previous semifinal between Brazil and Mexico. On and off torrential downpours before, between, and during the semifinals left the grass in a soggy state and the ball with nowhere to go. 

Afterward, U.S. coach Twila Kilgore was asked whether the game should have been played.

"Probably not. But those decisions aren't my decisions," she said. "If the referees make those decisions, and the game goes on, it's our job to figure out how to win."

Jaedyn Shaw scored in the 20th minute. A Canada defender tried to send the ball back to goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, but it stopped on the waterlogged field and Shaw ran up on it and scored.

Shaw is the first U.S. player to score in each of her first four starts.

Jordyn Huitema tied it up in the 82nd minute with a header that was beyond Naeher's reach.

Sophia Smith of the U.S. broke the stalemate in the 99th, falling to her knees in celebration before she was mobbed by her teammates. But Naeher collided with Gilles in the 120th minute and Canada was awarded a penalty, which Adriana Leon calmly converted to tie the match at 2.

Naeher had two saves to open the shootout, and then converted on a penalty of her own. She stopped Jesse Fleming with a final save to send a jubilant U.S. team to the title match.

"Being able to adjust to any sort of conditions is always a part of it and it takes a certain mentality to do that," Kilgore said. "We did that today and we're not going to shy away from celebrating that because it's not easy."

It was the 14th time that the U.S. has faced Canada in the knockout round of a competitive tournament. The U.S. has won 11 of the previous 13 meetings. Canada's lone win came in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics.

The tournament was the first women's Gold Cup, designed to give teams in the region meaningful competition. Four of the teams that participated - the United States, Canada, Brazil and Colombia - will play in the Paris Olympics.


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