Soccer Monday: USWNT wins the first Concacaf W Gold Cup trophy

The USWNT won the first ever Concacaf W Gold Cup Trophy. Annie Peterson breaks down the win an what it took to make it happen

First, a quick aside: It was International Women’s Day on Friday, and while I’m grateful for the rise of women’s soccer, the U.S. team’s efforts for equal pay and by extension, my career arc in sports, I’m constantly reminded there’s so much more that could be done to level the playing field across all sports and industries. It is so disingenuous when teams and organizations talk about how much they value women and LGBTQ+ people without any meaningful action behind their platitudes.

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I’m not saying that something like International Women’s Day is wrong. But it comes as so many rights are being stripped in the United States. Maybe it’s time to move away from flowery social media posts that are time-released once a year by PR departments. Instead, you know what would be really impressive? A professional team having a “Support Trans Kids” night, or maybe a “Reproductive Rights” night. On a random Wednesday in April. Then I’d know who was actually serious about supporting all of us.

As for the task at hand today, the United States defeated Brazil 1-0 on Sunday night in the CONCACF W Gold Cup final.

It was a tightly contested match, with both teams playing a sixth game in a compressed schedule. Brazil looked much improved after a lackluster showing at the Women’s World Cup last summer. Lindsey Horan scored on a header in first-half stoppage time, and the United States ultimately held on for the victory.

Midfielders Korbin Albert and Sam Coffey started in each of the knockout round games and proved their effectiveness for the team. Defender Casey Krueger helped the team hold onto the win at the end, clearing away a dangerous Brazilian cross with her head. The United States was outshot 12-7, and at times, Brazil looked like the better team. But what matters is that the USWNT held on, and the trophy is a morale booster going into the Olympics this summer after last year’s World Cup.

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Overall takeaways:

Kids Rule: The team’s teenagers, Jaedyn Shaw and Olivia Moultrie, each made a strong case for inclusion on the national team going forward. Shaw had four goals — the third most in the tournament. But in the current moment, there is so much talent in front of them, including Mallory Swanson and Lynn Williams, and the Olympic roster is only 18 players. But the youthful infusion bodes well for the long-term.

Defense, Defense, Defense: The USWNT made some unusual mistakes — Becky Sauerbrunn’s error against Mexico and Alyssa Naeher’s foul against Canada at the end of extra time in the semifinal — over the course of the tournament. Those are fixable issues, but they do need to be fixed. Naeher showed in the victory over Colombia and the penalty shootout why she’s still the best option for the United States in goal. And the team’s loss to Mexico certainly proved how valuable Naomi Girma is to this team.

Ain’t Done Yet: Alex Morgan wasn’t on the original roster for the Gold Cup but came aboard as a late replacement for Mia Fishel, who tore a ligament in her right knee in practice a day earlier. Morgan has done well and was a flat-out difference maker in the quarterfinal win over Colombia, without even scoring a goal. And when she played with some chippiness with Colombia’s Catalina Usme, Morgan showed us that she is not backing down.

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So many links, so little time. Here’s just a taste:

Why didn’t anyone tell me? The producer of Pump Rules is teaming up with Midge Purce on a reality show. Holy Cow I can’t wait.

Breaking this morning: NWSL expands partnership with Amazon.

Jeff Kassouf analyzes the Gold Cup final for the Equalizer.

I wrote about the unflappable Alyssa Naeher

Personally I really like Lori Lindsey, so happy to see this.

Bummed to see this, Simone Charley out for the season.

The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf wrote about the KC Current’s stadium.

Barbra Banda is coming to the Pride. Y’all remember her from the Tokyo Olympics.

The Olympic Channel’s NWSL preview from Courtney Hill.

CNBC with a story on Jessica Berman and leading the league out of crisis.

Tamerra Griffin’s great wrap up of the Gold Cup for The Athletic.

Cesar Hernandez wrapped up the USWNT performance for ESPN

Sports Business Journal’s NWSL season preview from a business-y perspective.

Jenna Tonelli says don’t call Gotham a Super Team just yet.

CNN with a story on the rain-soaked pitch in the semis.

Crystal Dunn’s Sunday post-game remarks:

Dunn: It’s not always pretty. And this was a game that we just grinded through and, you know, we got the job done and that’s the most important.

Question: What was your mentality going into this match? How were you able to anticipate all of that?

Dunn: I’m just so honored always to be on this field representing this team. And I think whenever I get the challenge of having to defend Brazilian players, I know it’s gonna be a battle. I know they’re going to be tricky on the ball. And I think for me it was just, staying in the zone and coming in and there’s times that, you know, I couldn’t make a play and the next time I’m kind of like, all right, that was that. Let’s go again. So I think, for me, it’s just staying connected. But also I have so many teammates around me who are always giving me that go-ahead to be aggressive and be assertive with the team. This was a good win tonight.

Question: What was the shift from the semifinal, or even the Mexico game, to now, that really made sure that the win was solidified?

Dunn: So many times you step on the field, it’s like you want to play the most beautiful game of soccer, right? Everyone does. But sometimes teams are really coming for us, and it’s okay to be like, “you know what? They’re putting people on the line and we may not be able to build out. Let’s just chase and get the ball back and win the second balls and just and fight.” Sometimes these games are about the fight. I’m really proud of the young ones stepping onto this field, on this team. I think they’re learning that it’s not always about how it gets done, but it’s about just getting it done. So, I think I’m just really proud of everybody. It was such a team, a collective effort tonight, but just throughout the whole tournament, everybody stepped up and I’m really proud of that.

Question: What does this game mean as a whole for this team moving from the World Cup to now?

Dunn: I think the team is in an amazing place. I mean, everything is about building. You know, we’ve ended this tournament on a high. We look forward to obviously our next tournament, the SheBelieves tournament. And I think I’m just proud of everybody. We walk away with a win, winning a trophy. And I think that’s a mentality that we just continue on. As far as Emma not being here, well, she is here. We feel like she is watching us. And we’re not just taking that lightly. I think the coaching staff has done an incredible job of just staying communicative with us, letting us know what we need, how we can get better, and how we can just keep pushing forward.

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Written by Annie Peterson