The U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team advanced to the semifinal of the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in dramatic fashion, coming from a goal down to score twice in the final 13 minutes to defeat Mexico, 2-1.
The USA will now face Group A winner Korea DPR in the first semifinal on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Sir John Guise Stadium (1 a.m. ET on FS1 and NBC Universo). North Korea defeated Spain, 3-2 in overtime, in a wild back-and-forth match to earn its semifinal berth.
Mexico took the lead in the 64th minute on a well-struck free kick and then it was game on in search of an equalizer for the USA. U.S. substitute Ally Watt tied the game in the 81st minute off a superb pass from Ashley Sanchez, but the young Americans weren’t done yet.
After some end-to-end play produced chances for both teams near the end of regulation, it was Sanchez who set up the game-winner three minutes into stoppage time with a brilliant dribble and pass from the right wing. She beat a defender around the corner, got to the end line and played a pass back on the ground that was dummied by Mallory Pugh and rolled to the crashing Kelcie Hedge, who had entered the game in the 68th minute. Near the right edge of the six-yard box, Hedge spun her first-time shot off the foot of a defender from about eight yards out and it settled into the lower left corner.
“Mexico was everything we thought they would be and more,” said U.S. head coach Michelle French. “I said after the last game that our best soccer was in front of us, but today it wasn’t about the soccer, it was about the heart and determination and the USA mentality that we’ve seen over the years. The resolve this group of players played with, the belief that the players one through twenty-one had that we would come back and get a result was amazing. Looking in their eyes during the water break (at 75 minutes), they one hundred percent felt they could come back in the game, and that’s something that’s been built into our culture. What a crazy, crazy game and a really fun way to make the semifinal.”
The brisk wind blowing through Sir John Guise Stadium helped both countries, Mexico in the first half and the USA in the second, but stellar team defense for the Americans kept Mexico away from the goal for the most part, forcing numerous shots from distance while goalkeeper Casey Murphy had to make just two saves. The USA scored on both of its shots on goal during the match, but had quite a few dangerous forays down the flanks from Emily Fox, Pugh, Sanchez and outside backs Maddie Elliston and Ellie Jean, only to see Mexico repel numerous crosses. Mexico goalkeeper Esthefanny Barreras was also excellent in snagging a handful of dangerous crosses in traffic.
After Hedge scored to put the USA up 2-1, the referee blew the final whistle just over a minute later.
“They did exactly what we asked them to do,” said French of the two substitutes who scored. “We call our substitutes game-changers because that’s the expectations we have for them when they come in. We started Sabrina Flores who hasn’t played a minute (to that point in the tournament) and Ally Watt comes in and again changes the game by getting the goal. Keclie Hedge, again someone who hasn’t played at all, comes in and finds a way to get that ball in the back of the net. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Goal Scoring Rundown:
MEX – Maria Sanchez, 65th minute: Kaleigh Riehl was called for a handball at the top of the penalty box while blocking a shot, giving Mexico a direct free kick from 18 yards out. Sanchez bent the ball around the wall up the middle. U.S. goalkeeper Casey Murphy dove to her right and got a good piece of it, but ball spun off her hands into the right side of the net. USA 0, MEX 1
USA – Ally Watt (Ashley Sanchez), 81st minute: The USA pushed hard forequalizer and a nice sequence of passes up the middle saw Sanchez receive a pass and spin toward goal. The speedy Watt made a great run to stay onside and Sanchez slipped it to her behind the defense in the left side of the box. As Mexico goalkeeper Esthefanny Barreras came out to challenge, Watt rolled a tightly-angled left-footed shot from about 10 yards out past the sliding ‘keeper and inside the near post. USA 1, MEX 1
USA – Kelcie Hedge (Ashley Sanchez), 90+3rd minute: In the third minute of stoppage, Sanchez beat a defender around the right corner with a nice stop-and-go move, got to the end line and rolled a pass back on the ground as she sprawled to the turf. The ball was expertly dummied Mallory Pugh and rolled to the crashing Kelcie Hedge, who had entered the game in the 68th minute. Hedge spun her first-time shot off a defender from about eight yards out and it settled into the lower left corner.USA 2, MEX 1 FINAL
- The win marked the sixth time in eight tournaments that the USA has made the semifinal of the FIFA U-20/U-19 Women’s World Cup. (The tournament was held as a U-19 event in 2002 and 2004).
- The only tournaments that saw the USA fail to reach the semis were in Germany in 2010 and in Canada in 2014 when the USA fell in penalty kicks to Nigeria and Korea DPR, respectively.
- U.S. head coach Michelle French made both of her substitutes after going a goal down and both players scored. Ally Watt came on for Sabrina Flores in the 73rd minute and scored her second goal of the tournament off the bench. She also scored against New Zealand just a few minutes after entering the game and now has seven U-20 international goals.
- Kelcie Hedge saw her first action of the World Cup when she replaced Jessie Scarpa in the 68th minute and got the game-winner, her first goal of the World Cup and fifth at the U-20 level.
- There were two players named Sanchez (one for each team) and three players named Flores (two for Mexico and one for the USA) on the field during the game, which included twin sisters Sabrina Flores for the USA and Monica Flores for Mexico. Sabrina Flores started and played her first minutes of the tournament.
- The USA has given up three goals in the tournament, two off set plays and one off a wind-aided 40-yard shot against Ghana.
- This was the first meeting between the USA and Mexico in a FIFA Women’s World Cup at any level.
-U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team Match Report-
Match: U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team vs. Mexico U-20 Women’s National Team
Date: Nov. 25, 2016
Competition: 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup – Quarterfinal
Venue: Sir John Guise Stadium; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Kickoff: 1 a.m. ET
Weather: 88 degrees; Partly cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 2 2
MEX 0 1 1
MEX – Maria Sanchez 66th minute
USA – Ally Watt (Ashley Sanchez) 80
USA – Kelcie Hedge (Ashley Sanchez) 90+2
USA: 1-Casey Murphy; 5-Madeline Elliston, 6-Taylor Otto, 3-Kaleigh Riehl, 14-Ellie Jean; 16-Emily Fox, 10-Emily Ogle, 4-Sabrina Flores (11-Ally Watt, 73); 9-Mallory Pugh (capt.), 18-Ashley Sanchez, 15-Jessie Scarpa (17-Kelcie Hedge, 68)
Subs Not Used: 2-Parker Roberts, 7-Savannah DeMelo, 8-Courtney Petersen, 12-Rose Chandler, 13-Marley Canales, 19-Natalie Jacobs, 20-Katie Cousins, 21-Brooke Heinsohn,
Head Coach: Michelle French
MEX: 12-Esthefanny Barreras; 3-Vanessa Flores, 4-Rebeca Bernal, 5-Monica Flores, 6-Nancy Antonio (capt.); 9-Kiana Palacios, 10-Eva Gonzalez, 11-Maria Sanchez, 14-Paulina Solis (7-Liliana Rodriguez, 59); 17-Jacqueline Crowther, 18-Belen Cruz
Subs Not Used: 1-Emily Alvarado, 2-Jacqueline Rodriguez, 8-Teresa Gonzalez, 13-Annia Mejia, 15-Natalia Villarreal, 16-Miriam Garcia, 19-Blanca Solis, 20-Katty Martinez, 21-Angeles Martinez
Head Coach: Roberto Medina
Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 4 / 15
Shots on Goal: 2 / 4
Saves: 3 / 0
Corner Kicks: 4 / 5
Fouls: 8 / 6
Offside: 0 / 1
MEX – Rebeca Bernal (caution) 50th minute
USA – Ellie Jean (caution) 56