Jan. 25, 2010
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala - The U.S. Under-20 Women's National Team defeated Mexico 2-1 at Estadio Cementos Progreso to claim first place in Group B at the 2010 CONCACAF U-20 Women's Championship. As the group winner, the U.S. will face Costa Rica, the second place finisher in Group A, in the first semifinal at 2:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 28. The match will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel.
In the other semifinal match, Group A winner Canada and Group B runner-up Mexico will square off at 5:30 p.m. ET, also on Thursday, Jan. 28, live on Fox Soccer Channel and CONCACAF.com. Both semifinal winners and the winner of the third place match will qualify for the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Germany.
Both teams started the match strong with Mexico putting much more pressure on the U.S. defense than the Americans had faced in the previous two games of the tournament, but the U.S. back line, led by center backs Toni Pressley and Crystal Dunn, proved impossible to get behind.
U.S. captain Sydney Leroux, who pressured the Mexican backline until she was subbed in 81st minute, had the first U.S. shot of the evening in the sixth minute as she volleyed wide right off a Rachel Quon cross from the right wing.
Flank midfielder Zakiya Bywaters then had two close calls in a row, first blasting a ball into the right side netting in the eight minute after running onto a square pass from Teresa Noyola that dissected the Mexican defense. One minute later, Bywaters collected a cross in the right side of the box from Vicki DiMartino, measured up her defender and then left her behind with a burst of speed inside. Bywaters' quick move gave her an unimpeded shot at the net, but she smashed the ball right at Mexican goalkeeper Aurora Santiago.
U.S. goalkeeper Bianca Henninger, who hadn't been tested much in the two previous matches, came up huge in the 10th minute on basically her first real test of the tournament when Natalia Gomez-Junco got some separation from Dunn and Pressley in the middle and squared it right to Natalia Lagunas. The Mexican forward hit a high, arching shot that Henninger did well to tip over the goal for a corner kick.
Henninger's save took on even more importance when DiMartino, the USA's left back, punctured the Mexican goal just three minutes later with a tremendous blast from distance. Noyola did well to latch onto a pass at the top of the penalty box and tapped the ball back to DiMartino, who took a perfect preparation touch to the inside and hit a 28-yeard screamer into the upper right corner over the diving Santiago. The right footed rocket was made even more impressive by the fact that DiMartino is left-footed.
The U.S. had a goal disallowed in the 32nd minute after another Quon cross found to Leroux alone in the box, but her thumping volley into the upper right corner was quickly rendered null by the flag of the assistant referee, who correctly signaled offside.
The USA went into the break with the 1-0 lead, but Mexico almost tied it just seconds after the break as Gomez-Junco stole a ball near the top of the box and fired a shot that Henninger had to parry to her right with a dive. The rebound bounced to Inglis Hernández, but she sailed her half-volley over the goal.
As the second half wore on, it became clear the U.S. would need a second goal to take some sting out of the gusty Mexicans, who clearly believed they could do enough to get an equalizer.
Truth be told, the U.S. had plenty of chances to put the game way, wasting three golden chances from the 50th to 58th minutes. First, midfielder Christine Nairn won a ball in midfield and exchanged a nifty pass with Leroux, then put McCarty through on a semi-breakaway. With a defender on her back, McCarty waited too long to shoot and Santiago came off her line to cut down the angle, smothering the shot before defender Valeria Miranda cleared it out of danger.
Two minutes later, Leroux had a breakaway of her own, racing in from the left side with only Santiago to beat, but pushed her shot wide right of the goal from just inside the penalty area.
U.S. U-20 WNT head coach Jill Ellis made her first substitute in the 53rd minute, sending on Amber Brooks at holding midfielder for Jenna Richmond. Brooks made her presence felt by winning numerous balls in the midfield and in the 58th minute won a challenge before finding Noyola, who played a wall-pass with McCarty that got behind the Mexican defense. Noyola hit her shot well from the right side of the penalty box, but it skipped just outside the left post.
In the 63rd minute, Kristie Mewis came into the match for Bywaters and just over a minute later she had created the second goal. Mewis received the ball on the left from Noyola, ran past a defender and slid hard on the ground to drive her shot off the inside of the left post from a bit of an angle. Amazingly, the ball rebounded in the air back towards the center of the goal, where Leroux was lurking. Leroux, who had a defender right on her back, stretched her left leg high and got a foot on the ball from about six yards out, depositing her first-time shot into the upper left corner over Santiago. The Mexican `keeper leapt back in a vain attempt to swat the ball away, but was out of position after being stranded at the left post when she stepped out to challenge Mewis.
Despite going down by two goals, Mexico did not give up and created several dangerous chances in the final portion of the match, including one free-kick that hit the top of the crossbar in the 72nd minute. Mexico finally pulled a goal back in the second minute of stoppage time off a corner kick as Gomez-Junco sent a high cross into the center of the penalty area. Mexico captain Alina Garciamendez, a Texas product who plays at Stanford University with Noyola and Quon, used her 5-foot-8 frame to dart in front of a U.S. defender and sneak a header past Henniinger low into the right side of the goal.
It was the first goal the U.S. has given up in the tournament against 12 scored.
Two years ago at the 2008 CONCACAF U-20 Women's Championships in Mexico, the U.S. team also faced Costa Rica in the semifinal with a berth to the U-20 Women's World Cup on the line. The USA won that match by a 4-0 score with four first half goals by four different players to book tickets to Chile.
USA: 1-Bianca Henninger; 6-Rachel Quon, 4-Crystal Dunn, 11-Toni Pressley, 3-Victoria DiMartino; 12-Zakiya Bywaters (15-Kristie Mewis, 63), 13-Jenna Richmond (5-Amber Brooks, 53), 17-Christine Nairn, 9-Teresa Noyola; 19-Sydney Leroux (capt.) (16-Maya Hayes, 82), 7-Tiffany McCarty
Subs not used: 8-Samantha Mewis, 10-Casey Short, 14-Morgan Marlborough, 24-Taylor Vancil
Head Coach: Jill Ellis
MEX: 1-Aurora Santiago, 2-Bianca Sierra, 3-Alina Garciamendez, 4-Marylin Díaz, 5-Valeria Miranda; 6-Diana González (7-Lydia Rangel, 54), 14-Monica Alvarado, 16-Ashley Kotero (11-Liliana Godoy, 64), 17-Natalia Gomez-Junco; 18-Inglis Hernández, 19-Natalie Lagunas (9-Sandra Mayor, 72)
Subs not used: 10-Verónica Corral, 12-Brissa Rangel, 13-Olivia Jimenez, 15-Angélica Figueroa
Head Coach: Roberto Medina