RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (July 23, 2007) -- The U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team pulled off a stellar victory in the semifinal of the 2007 Pan American Games, stunning the full Canadian Women’s National Team with a 2-1 victory as forward Lauren Cheney scored both goals.
The USA will now face host Brazil for the gold medal on Thursday, July 26, at the famed Maracaña Stadium, at one time the largest stadium in the world. Brazil defeated Mexico, 2-0, in the other semifinal on two goals from Rosana in a dominating victory that saw the hosts pile up a 29-3 shot advantage.
Both the USA and Canada were coming off disappointing losses in their final group matches. The USA let in three late goals in a 3-2 loss to Mexico while Canada suffered a 7-0 defeat to Brazil.
The young U.S. team, which is preparing for next year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship in Chile, were out-shot 15-6 by a Canadian team that is heading to the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China this September, but got a goal in both halves from Cheney, then fended off a late rally to record the emotional win.
Cheney did not play against Mexico in the final group match while serving a suspension for the red card she received in the previous game against Argentina, and the 5-foot-9 forward came out bursting with energy, scoring in the 18th minute and the 77th minute. Canada pulled a goal back with two minutes left through a long shot from the wing by Kara Lang, who is Cheney’s college teammate at UCLA, but it was too little, too late for the Canadians, who will face Mexico for the bronze medal.
“I think it needed to happen for us,” said Cheney of the loss to Mexico. “We were sliding by in the second half in games, and not putting the whole game together. We realized that if we didn’t, it would come back to bite us. I think for this game, I was especially motivated playing in Maracaña Stadium against Canada’s World Cup Team. If that doesn’t motivate you, nothing will. “
U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher came up huge for the USA as she stopped a penalty kick late in the game from Canada’s star forward Christine Sinclair. Naeher dove to her right to corral the shot that was not well-struck.
“Going into the game, we talked about needing a 90-minute performance and it was from all 11 players on the field,” said U.S. head coach Jillian Ellis. “Overall, our backs sustained our team against a lot of pressure. Alyssa (Naeher) had an amazing game, making the save on the PK, and she made a couple other great saves. When we got the ball, we connected some passes and were able to put together some good possession. It was a concerted team effort defensively, and we were composed in the attacking the third. At the end of the game, they couldn’t even celebrate they were so exhausted.”
Cheney’s first goal came courtesy of a slashing run through the Canadian midfield by Tobin Heath, who then slipped a shot pass behind the Canada defense to the U.S. forward and she ripped the ball into the lower right corner from 16 yards out.
“I think we had some good opportunities throughout the match,” said Cheney. “Canada played really direct, but our backs did their job. They played awesome and stuck together and battled. Canada is not an easy team to play against for sure. This team just has a lot of heart and joy and passion for the game.”
The second goal came off an assist from Casey Nogueira, whose pass put Cheney in one-on-one with Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc. Cheney didn’t flinch, finishing crisply into the right corner from 15 yards away. Cheney, who has one goal in two career caps for the full U.S. Women’s National Team, has scored six goals so far in the Pan Ams, upping her U-20 international total to 15 in 19 matches. Cheney is one of two “overage” players on the Pan Am roster who is not age-eligible for next year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Cheney almost notched her second hat trick of the tournament, but was called offside after slamming home a rebound off a Kelley O’Hara shot.
“The experience of the Pan Am games, the intense schedule of games, the large stadiums and unfavorable crowds, that all adds up to great preparation,” said Ellis. “There must have been 25,000 people in the stadium for the Mexico-Brazil game before our match, and when we came out, they were booing the USA. You can’t buy that kind of experience. The kids can’t hear themselves out there. It’s so loud, it’s fantastic.”
The USA now faces a Brazil team featuring most of its first-choice full National Team players that will be playing in the 2007 Women’s World Cup, including the 2006 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, Marta, who scored five goals in Brazil’s victory over Canada in group play. Brazil has scored 28 goals in the tournament and allowed zero.
“The game doesn’t know who is supposed to win,” said Cheney of the gold medal game. “In the game of soccer, anything can happen.”
“They are young, and with youth comes energy,” added Ellis. “They are just exited about the game.”
U.S. UNDER-20 WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: USA vs. Canada
Competition: 2007 Pan American Games – Semifinal
Venue: Maracaña Stadium – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Date: July 20, 2007; Kickoff – 7:00 p.m. local
Weather: Sunny - 75 degrees
1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
CAN 0 1 1
USA – Lauren Cheney (Tobin Heath) 18th minute.
USA – Lauren Cheney (Casey Nogueira) 77.
CAN -- Kara Lang (n/a) 88.
USA –1-Alyssa Naeher, 2-Brittany Taylor, 6-Nikki Marshall, 16-Lauren Wilmoth, 4-Kaley Fountain; 10-Michelle Enyeart (12-Kylie Wright, 60), 11-Tobin Heath, 15-Becky Edwards; 7-Casey Nogueira, 17-Kelley O’Hara (9-Jessica McDonald, 85), Lauren Cheney (capt.)
Subs not used: 1-Alyssa Naeher, 3-Nikki Washington, 5-Teresa Noyola, 13-Lauren Barnes, 14-Gina Dimartino, 18-Chantel Jones.
Head Coach: Jillian Ellis
CAN – 1-Karina LeBlanc; 2-Melanie Booth (Amy Vermeulen, 46), Melissa Tancredi, 6-Sasha Andrews, 11-Randee Hermus, 5-Andrea Neil, 8-Diana Matheson, 16-Katie Thorlakson, 7-Rhian Wilkinson, 15-Kara Lang, 12-Christie Sinclair (capt.)
Subs not used: 2-Kristina Kiss, 9-Candace Chapman, 10-Martina Franko, 13-Amy Walsh, 17-Brittany Timko, 20-Taryn Swiatek.
Head Coach: Even Pellerud
USA / CAN
Shots: 6 / 15
Shots on Goal: 5 / 9
Saves: 8 / 3
Corner Kicks: 0 / 6
Fouls: 10 / 15
Offside: 4 / 6
Referee: Ricardo Cerdas (CRC)
Asst. Referee: Marvin Ramirez (CRC)
Asst. Referee: Carlos Herrera (ECU)
4th Official: Dario Goes (BRA)
July 23, 2007 Venue
USA 2, Canada 1 Maracanã Stadium
Brazil 2, Mexico 0 Maracanã Stadium
Final and Third Place Match
July 26, 2007 Teams Venue
Gold Medal Game USA vs. Brazil Maracanã Stadium
Bronze Medal Game Canada vs. Mexico Maracanã Stadium