PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Nov. 29, 2016) – The U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team battled with every ounce of energy they had through 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime before falling 2-1 to a talented Korea DPR side in the first semifinal of the 2016 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
“I think you saw why Korea DPR made the semifinal and why the growth of the game in their country has propelled them to so much success,” said U.S. head coach Michelle French. “I thought the first 90 minutes we did well enough to be in the game. It’s an extremely disappointing feeling for those players right now who left every bit of energy and every piece of their heart out on the field today.”
The USA will now face the loser of the France-Japan semifinal in the third-place match on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the National Football Stadium (1 a.m. ET on FS1 and telemundo.com).
“Now we’re at a point where we have to turn around and refocus because we have an opportunity to earn a medal,” said French. “Our players need to realize that. Their job isn’t done and they’re going to have every opportunity against whoever our opponent is [in the third place match] to come out and show why we deserve to be in the final four.”
The U.S. team played an excellent first 30 minutes, putting together some quality possession coupled with some excellent defense pressure that created danger in the Korea DPR defensive third. U.S. captain Mallory Pugh had two good looks at goal, albeit from a tight angle, and cut the first one just past the left post while Korea DPR goalkeeper Kim Myong Sun made a kick save on the second.
The Koreans got the first goal in the 51st minute, which came from the penalty spot after U.S. midfielder Katie Cousins was whistled for a handball while blocking a shot. Jon So Yon converted her spot kick into the lower right corner as U.S. goalkeeper Casey Murphy jumped the other way.
As the game wore on, the technically savvy and organized Korea DPR team had the lion’s share of the possession and shots, but the Americans kept fighting, and as they’d done all tournament, got a goal when they needed one.
French sent on attackers Ally Watt, Kelcie Hedge and Jessie Scarpa between the 66th and 78th minutes, but it was a defender who would get the tying score.
As the game entered the 89th minute, Scarpa cut back on her defender from the left wing and sent a cross into the penalty area for Pugh. She took a hard touch and it bounced off a defender, then off Pugh, before a Korea defender made a poor clearance. Natalie Jacobs came flying through to hit an athletic left-footed, first-time volley that looped into the right side of the net to tie the game.
Due to the cooling break and several injuries in the stifling heat, seven minutes of stoppage time were added to the end of the match that saw some wild end-to-end play. The USA was forced to play the last four minutes of stoppage time with 10 players after Watt had to go out injured and the Americans had already made their three allowed substitutes in regulation. Watt went down hard in the 81st minute as she was violently decked from behind by Korean defender. She tried to continue, but could not, and the USA lost its fastest player for the overtime period.
After the USA dodged a few quality scoring chances from Korea DPR in second half stoppage time, French was able to utilize the new rule allowing for a fourth sub in overtime and sent on Courtney Peterson for Watt.
Korea DPR wasted no time going ahead, however, creating a very nice goal less than a minute into the first overtime. The USA tried to push for a second equalizer and battled with tremendous heart until to the end, but a clearly fatigued U.S. team could not find the net again.
“I said it all tournament, I couldn’t be more proud,” said French. “Again you find a way to get the goal at the end. We never gave up, I think in the end, the 4 o’clock games that we had (in the heat) and the possession that Korea DPR had, it just started to add up and you could see our players start to fatigue a little bit. That’s 100 percent to be expected, so great game for Korea DPR and best of luck to them in the final.”
U.S. defender Maddie Elliston cleared a ball off the goal line after Murphy made a fantastic point blank save in the 109th minute to keep the USA in the game, but it was not to be.
Murphy had an excellent game in goal, making several fine saves over the course of the 120 minutes while controlling the air her penalty box as well.
Goal Scoring Rundown:
PRK – Jon So Yon (penalty kick), 50th minute: Korea DPR started the half strong and earned a penalty kick after Katie Cousins was called for a handball while sliding to block a shot in right side of the penalty box. The ball initially hit her leg, but deflected up her body and ricocheted off her arm. Jon So Yon calmly sent her kick into the lower right corner as U.S. goalkeeper Casey Murphy guessed the other way. USA 0, PRK 1
USA – Natalie Jacobs, 89th minute: With the seconds ticking away in regulation, Jessie Scarpa cut back on her defender from the left flank and sent a cross into the penalty area for Pugh, who took a hard touch to goal in the middle of the penalty area. The ball bounced off a defender, and then Pugh, and then another defender made a poor clearance. Jacobs came flying through to hit an athletic left-footed, first-time volley into the right side of the net to tie the game. USA 1, PRK 1
PRK – Ri Hyang Sim (Sung Hyang Sim), 91st minute: As the first overtime began, Korea DPR wasted little time going ahead, scoring just 48 seconds after the restart on an excellent build up. The play started on a dead ball after the USA was called for offside. Korea DPR played the ball to the left and then up the middle. A series of passes then got the ball into the right side of the penalty area to Ri Hyang Sim whohad an uncontested shot from inside the six-yard box and she stuffed her shot into the near post past charging U.S. goalkeeper Casey Murphy for the game winner. USA 1, PRK 2 FINAL
- The loss was the first in overtime for the USA in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
- The USA has lost just four matches in regulation time in its history in the tournament, spanning eight competitions. Three of the losses were to Germany and one to China PR during group play in 2008 when the USA had already clinched first place in the group.
- The USA defeated Korea DPR 2-1 in overtime during the quarterfinals at the 2012 U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Japan and lost to them in penalty kicks in the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup quarterfinals in Canada.
- The USA has played in the third-place game of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup on two other occasions, defeating Brazil in 2004 and losing in penalty kicks to Brazil in 2008.
- Natalie Jacobs got her first start of the tournament at right back. Ellie Jean, who had played right back in the four previous games, moved into right midfield and ran with fury until she was taking off in the 71st minute for Kelcie Hedge.
- The goal for Natalie Jacobs was just her second at the U-20 level in 20 caps.
- Courtney Petersen played the entire overtime in her first action since the opening match of the tournament against France.
- The USA has given up five goals in the tournament, four off set plays. Korea DPR’s game-winner was the first goal given up from the run of play.