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March 11, 2012
U-20 Women rally past Canada for CONCACAF Championship

PANAMA CITY, Panama - Although they had already booked their passage to the Under-20 FIFA Women's World Cup later this year, the U.S. U-20 Women's National Team took care of their last piece of unfinished business on Sunday, rallying to defeat Canada 2-1 in the title game of the CONCACAF U-20 Women's Championship. It was the USA's second consecutive regional tournament title at this age level.

The USA scored twice in the final 12 minutes of the match, capped off by Chioma Ubogagu's 89th-minute game-winner tally. They were the only two goals surrendered by the gritty Canadian defense in the tournament.

Substitute Kealia Ohai, who came into the match in the 76th minute, was the catalyst for both goals. The USA finally broke through in the 79th minute as Ohai sprinted down the right side and crossed the ball into the center of the penalty area. Maya Hayes won the ball in the midst of several Canadian defenders, took a short touch away from the goal and then shot through three players from eight yards out. Canadian goalkeeper Sabrina D'Angelo was perhaps screened but could do nothing as her dive to her right was too late to stop the shot from skidding just inside the left post.

The goal touched off a wild celebration among the U.S. players, who had been pushing hard for a goal the entire match. It was Hayes' team-leading fifth goal of the tournament.

With Canada clearly rattled, the USA went hard for the game-winner. Once again it was the speed of Ohai that created room to cross, this time from the left. The cross hit off a Canadian defender and Ubogagu did well to battle for the loose ball, sliding to scoop the ball into the net with her left foot while falling to the ground. Her shot stuck just the inside of the right post for a 2-1 lead and ultimately the championship.

After allowing a goal against the run of play – when Canada’s Jenna Richardson picked off an errant pass by U.S. defender Crystal Dunn and put it into the net - in just the fifth minute, the U.S. dominated the match in almost every way, maintaining the majority of possession while piling up a 28-7 shot margin for the match and a 14-2 edge in corner kicks. D’Angelo made nine saves to keep the U.S. Women off the board until late in the game.

Bryane Heaberlin made three saves in net for the U.S., all in the second half.

"Credit Canada, they're a tough team to break down and I thought they played very hard," said U.S. U-20 Women's National Team head coach Steve Swanson. "But full marks to our players. They really came back and showed a lot of determination and heart and hung in there. I was happy to see us win it before overtime. We had the momentum at that point when we scored the equalizer and it was just nice to see it carry through. It was a good tournament for us. We learned a lot and were tested, and are looking forward to the next phase which is getting ready for the World Cup."

The U.S. team will begin its preparations for the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup to be held in Japan from Aug. 19 to Sept. 8.

Earlier on Sunday, Mexico claimed the final CONCACAF berth to Japan by defeating host Panama 5-0 in the third-place game. It marks the fourth time that the USA, Canada and Mexico will represent the CONCACAF in the same U-20 Women's World Cup.

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