USWNT and CANWNT face off in W Gold Cup semifinals after two intense matchups

Alex Morgan (7) faces off with Manuela Pavi (15) in the W Gold Cup quarterfinal. Photo Courtesy of Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo.

By Allyn Tucker

Boston University News Service

The fiercest rivalry on the women’s side of Concacaf is back – on Wednesday night, players for the United States and Canada will take the field in what is sure to be a continuation of their storied history during the inaugural W Gold Cup semifinals. 

To reach the semifinal matchup, the United States Women’s National Team bounced back from an uninspiring 2-0 loss to Mexico in the final group stage match, beating Colombia 3-0 in the quarterfinals. The game was nothing short of entertaining, featuring some incredible American rhythm — something that fans have been sorely missing — and some Oscar-worthy drama.

Although interim head coach Twila Kilgore opted for a starting lineup which has been debated over the course of the tournament, favoring Alex Morgan on the front line ahead of young star Sophia Smith, Morgan had a night reminiscent of her prime. Drawing an early penalty, scored by Lindsey Horan, and assisting left back and reigning NWSL rookie of the year, Jenna Nighswonger, Morgan continued her good form throughout the tournament, making a case for a spot on this summer’s Olympic roster.

Before Horan stepped up to sink the penalty, however, the night’s first scuffle broke out between Morgan and a mirage of Colombian defenders in front of the penalty spot. Trinity Rodman did not shy away from the drama, joining both the scuffle with Morgan and later earning herself a yellow card caution for her own retaliating foul on a Colombian outside back.

The night got increasingly chippy, with three Americans and four Colombians receiving yellow card cautions, but the USWNT continued to shine. Nighswonger’s one touch finish was a beauty, and a cross from Rodman finished by Jaedyn Shaw earned the 19-year-old her third goal of the tournament. Despite all of the attacking talent on display, the player of the match was none other than goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

Naeher, who earned her 100th Cap (or appearance for the team) Sunday night against Colombia, came up big with two incredible saves later in the game, including a reaction save for the highlight reel. The USWNT’s night is a hopeful sign for fans still questioning their shocking World Cup performance, but their semifinal matchup with Canada will be the ultimate opportunity to shut down the doubt. 

Taking down Costa Rica in an overtime nail-biter on Saturday night, the Canadian Women’s National Team has also been using the W Gold Cup as an opportunity to bounce back from their group stage exit in last summer’s World Cup.

The CANWNT cruised through the group stage, scoring 13 goals in the first three matches and taking down El Salvador, Paraguay and Costa Rica. Their offensive domination was led primarily by Adrianna Leon, Shelina Zadorsky and Jordan Huitema, but six different players got on the scoresheet during the group stage. 

Although Canada’s offense struggled to put away their many chances during the quarterfinal matchup against Costa Rica, which was the second game in a row the two teams faced each other, their defense continued its good form. Keeping a clean sheet over the entire tournament, the Canadian backline and goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan have quietly dominated their competition. 

With Costa Rica putting up a strong fight despite a lack of possession, Sheridan was called upon in the final moments of regulation to make an incredible save which sent the game to extra-time. She came up huge to save Herrera Barrientos’ shot from the top of the six yard box with an extended right foot. 

In the first period of extra-time, Canada was finally able to break through on goal, with Evelyne Viens heading the ball into the back of the net off of a free kick taken by captain Jessie Fleming. The goal sends Canada into Wednesday night’s semifinal matchup against the USWNT, as Costa Rica was unable to respond. 

The United States and Canada met most recently in last spring’s She Believes Cup, where the USWNT won 2-0 off a Mallory Swanson brace. The Americans also lead the all-time series 53W-7D-4L, but their dominance on paper is not a true testament to the level of competition. 

Currently ranked tenth in the FIFA world rankings, the Canadians are a force to be reckoned with, and the second-ranked USWNT has not been consistently performing since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were played in 2021. In Japan, the CANWNT defeated the USWNT in the semifinal round, going on to win the gold medal. 

With the USWNT feeling confident and the CANWNT performing well, the scene is set for an incredible matchup. The teams face off in San Diego at 10:15 P.M. ET, which fans can catch on Paramount+ and ESPN+. The action begins earlier in the night with the other semifinal game, featuring Brazil and Mexico, kicking off at 7 P.M. ET on the same streaming platforms.

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