January 28, 2010
U.S. women win, clinch U-20 WWC berth
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala -- Second-half goals from Kristie Mewis and Teresa Noyola, both from set pieces, led the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team to a 2-1 victory over Costa Rica in the first semifinal of the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championships Thursday, to earn a berth to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany.
The Americans will face the winner of the Canada-Mexico semifinal for the CONCACAF regional title Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
The winner of the Canada-Mexico match also will qualify for the U-20 Women’s World Cup, along with the winner of the third-place match.
The U.S. last won the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship in 2006, topping Mexico in the semifinals and Canada in the final to take the regional crown. In 2008, the U.S. dropped a 1-0 decision to Canada in the championship game, but went on to win the FIFA U-20 World Cup later that year.
“First, we are thrilled to be going to the World Cup,” U.S. coach Jillian Ellis said. “I thought we had a better second half. We won more 50-50 balls and we kept better possession of the ball. We raised our level in the second half, which is what we needed to do, and the players responded well. It was a bit unfortunate to give up a goal but I think the players are happy to be moving on.”
Costa Rica, which lost 4-0 to the U.S. in the semifinal of the last CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship two years ago, played a physical match that featured numerous hard tackles and challenges from behind, fouls which eventually did in the Central Americans.
In the 60th minute, Zakiya Bywaters, who had entered the game just three minutes earlier, was fouled on the left wing as she tried to take on a defender. U.S. right back Rachel Quon sent a perfect inswinging free kick into the penalty area. Mewis sliced in between two Costa Rican defenders and just beat goalkeeper Priscilla Tapia to the ball, rising in traffic to redirect her header into the lower right corner from six yards.
The U.S. doubled its lead with the eventual game-winner in the 71st minute, after Sydney Leroux was chopped down while trying to make a lateral dribbling move across the top of the penalty box. With the ball placed just to the left of the penalty arc, Noyola drilled the 23-yard free kick over the wall and into the left corner. The ball was so well hit that Tapia barely moved.
The goals were the second of the tournament for Mewis and Noyola.
Costa Rica seemed to lose a little steam after going down by two goals, while the Americans attacked aggressively for a third. Seconds after Noyola’s goal, Leroux barely missed connecting on a diving header off a left wing cross from Bywaters.
Costa Rica scored the final goal of the match, on their only real chance of the second half. The goal came in the 77th minute, when Ana Aguilar crossed from the right wing. Amazingly, the ball ricocheted off both U.S. central defenders, first hitting Toni Pressley and then Crystal Dunn, before falling right into the path of Raquel Rodríguez Cedeño, who then showed why she is her team’s leading scorer. Cedeno got a tiny bit of separation from Quon and pounded a half-volley into the upper right corner from six yards out.
The Americans were able to easily put away the rest of the match against the tired Costa Ricans to book their tickets to Germany. The Women’s World Cup will be held from July 13-Aug. 1 in four German cities.