The American women celebrate yet another title. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
FRISCO, Texas — The magic number for the U.S. women’s national team Wednesday night was 26.
As in 26, the number of unbeaten games the Americans after besting Canada, 2-0, in the concacaf Women’s Championship.
As in 26, the number of goals they scored over five games in the competition.
If there is away to stop the American women, please step up because no one hasn’t been able to overcome the team’s overwhelming talent and depth.
Of course, the Canadians are no slouches themselves as the fifth-ranked side in the latest FIFA women’s rankings
In fact, if the Americans have any designs of repeating as world champions and win an unprecedented fourth title, it will have to defeat the likes of Canada in France next June and July.
While both sides already qualified for the WWC by capturing their respective semifinal matches on Sunday, the teams battled through a physical and sometimes contentious match in what was considered by many observers to be the best game of the tournament. Referee Lucila Venegas awarded Canada four yellow cards, the U.S. one.
“There’s obviously a physical component when you play a team that’s athletic like Canada,” USA head coach Jill Ellis said.
As in their previous four games, the USA scored their its goal inside the opening nine minutes to put their foes on their backfoot.
“It feels really good,” Ellis said. “It feels like a starting point as where we want to be. This is a good start not to concede a goal in the tournament.
“When you play your rivals in a tournament like this, a lot of times its heart and will.”
Midfielder Lindsey Horan, who garnered National Women’s Soccer League MVP honors while playing for the Portland Thorns, started the scoring sequence with a left-wing feed to the middle of the box. A defender deflected the ball to Rose Lavelle, who drilled the ball past goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe into the lower right corner.
Alex Morgan gave the USA some breathing room in the 89th minute. Megan Rapinoe floated a corner kick into the box that was headed out by a defender to Horan. She tapped the ball to Rockville Centre’s Crystal Dunn, who sent the ball to Horan. Horan then set up Morgan as the striker slipped home her tournament-leading seventh goal and 97th international score.
“You have to close out games and it was a good lesson tonight,” Ellis said.
“It was a final. You could see it,” Canada head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller said. “We left everything we could out there.”
Asked if he thought the Canadians had closed the gap between its side and the USA, Heiner-Moller replied, “I don’t think there is a gap. The gap’s closed. We’re getting there.”