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January 30, 2010
U.S. women nip Mexico on 11th-hour goal

GUATEMALA City, Guatemala -- Sydney Leroux scored in the 86th minute to break a scoreless tie and lift the United States to a 1-0 victory over Mexico and to the CONCACAF Under-20 Women's Championship on Saturday.

It was Leroux's tournament-high sixth goal.

Both teams had already qualified for the next Julyís Womenís U-20 World Cup in Germany by virtue of semifinal victories two days ago, but pride and a CONCACAF regional title provided more than enough motivation on Saturday.

In what will surely go down as Mexicoís best-ever performance against the U.S. in a youth competition, the Americans finally broke through an organized and committed defense with less than three minutes to play in regulation and, appropriately, it was Leroux who bagged the game-winner.

ďI tip my hat to Mexico, they are a terrific team, but Iím very excited for our players," U.S. coach Jillian Ellis said. They have worked very hard. It was a tough tournament as far as playing five matches in a short number of days, but itís a great end to an awesome week. Iím proud of all of them. Every single player on this team helped us win this tonight. Itís a nice way to begin preparing for Germany.Ē

Leroux, who was also the top scorer at the 2008 FIFA U-20 Womenís World Cup in Chile, tallied in four out of five matches the U.S. played in Guatemala, with her final goal worthy of a tournament winner.

The goal originated when Leroux, stationed in midfield with her back to the goal, first-timed a long pass back into the center circle to midfielder Kristie Mewis, and then bent her run towards the Mexico penalty area. From the bottom of the center circle, Mewis slid a perfect ball on the ground in the path of the sprinting Leroux, who out-ran a Mexican defender and took one hard touch into the left side of the box.

The U.S. captain blasted her angled, left-footed shot over Mexican goalkeeper Aurora Santiago and into the roof of the net from 12 yards out. The ball was almost past Santiago before she could react.

ďI was in absolute shock," Leroux said. "I was so excited I put my hands in the air and screamed. The whole team came over. I guess they didnít know in the bench and in the stands that it had gone in because it looked like it hit the top of the net, so they didnít know until I ran around. It was so exciting. I feel same way I felt at the World Cup when I scored in the final. Itís the same type of excitement.Ē

Asked what she thought of finishing as the top goal-scorer of the tournament, Leroux replied, ďI wouldnít have six goals if it wasnít for the rest of the team. Itís awesome but at the same time, if anyone else had scored six goals I would have felt just as happy for her as I do now.Ē

The victory marked only the second U-20 regional title for the United States. In the 2002 CONCACAF U-19 Womenís Championships, there were no semifinals or a final contested as the group winners qualified directly to the FIFA U-19 Womenís World Cup which was held in Canada. In 2004 and 2008, the USA lost in the championship game of this tournament to Canada. The USA won its first CONCACAF U-20 title in 2006, defeating Canada, 3-2.

In the third-place match, Costa Rica stunned Canada, 1-0, to qualify for its first ever FIFA Womenís World Cup at this level. The Ticas had their first Women's World Cup experience at the 2008 U-17 WWC in New Zealand. It also marked the first time Canada has failed to qualify for a FIFA Womenís World Cup at the youth level.

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