Analysis: USWNT edges Mexico to CONCACAF W Championship
The last match played by the United States Women’s National Team against Mexico in Mexico qualified for the World Cup in 2010.
The United States lost. Mexico went straight to the World Cup and the Americans were forced to earn their place in the tournament via interconfederate playoffs.
A lot has changed since then, with the United States winning back-to-back Women’s World Cups while Mexico struggled to drop records under three coaches. So when the teams met on Monday night in the group final of yet another World Cup qualifying tournament – the CONCACAF W Championship – the 1-0 victory for the United States was expected.
But it wasn’t easy, with the only goal hitting Kristie Mewis’ thigh after a scramble in front of the net in the final minute of regulation time. The goal was given a lengthy video review before being cleared to stand.
The win was the Americans’ 29th consecutive CONCACAF World Cup and Olympic qualifier since that 2010 loss in Cancun. In fact, USA haven’t allowed a qualifying goal since then.
Even before Monday’s game, won in front of a crowd of 20,521 in a hot and breezy Estadio Universitario, the United States had a place in next summer’s World Cup. However, this year’s CONCACAF W Championship will also determine the region’s representative at the Paris Olympics in 2024, and in that sense the victory was significant as it will send the Americans into the semi-finals of Thursday’s tournament against Costa Rica. on a wave of momentum, having played 17 matches. and 11 months since their last loss.
The United States must beat Costa Rica and then win next week’s final to guarantee a place in Paris.
For Mexico, Monday’s brave effort, by far its best of the tournament, showed why the country entered the competition with high hopes. But he comes out without a win or a goal – and without a place for the 2023 World Cup or the Paris Olympics.
“It hurts,” coach Mónica Vergara said in Spanish. “The players have a strong injury.”
Mexico began to crumble in the 73rd minute when midfielder Jacqueline Ovalle was shown a red card for a cleats challenge against American Rose Lavelle. It took the United States 16 more minutes, playing against a shorthanded team, to score the only goal they needed.
It was meant to be the crowning achievement of a Mexican program that had made great strides under Vergara, who played on the country’s only Olympic team in 2004 and then rose through the ranks of the national team, coaching U15 teams, U17 and U20 before taking on the senior squad 18 months ago.
The team entered the Monterrey tournament in their best form for a decade, unbeaten in their last 10 games and averaging more than five goals per game. So when El Tri Femenil opened the tournament with a loss to Jamaica, Vergara called it a “stumble” and said it wouldn’t define his team. After Mexico lost to Haiti three days later, the coach, booed ahead of Monday’s kick-off, was already talking about the 2027 World Cup.
The team’s effort on Monday was the kind president Yon De Luisa and the rest of the Mexican soccer federation hoped for last year when they began an overhaul of the women’s program by making 39-year-old Vergara the first woman to lead the senior team, handing her a young and talented roster, most of whom played in the young and thriving national Liga MX and not for American colleges.
The reset continued two months ago when New York promoter Soccer United Marketing was contracted to organize a series of friendlies in the United States to raise funds for the women’s team as well as their profile. The first match will be against Angel City FC in September in Los Angeles.
“Supporting the women’s program was a board decision,” De Luisa said. “No doubt this is something that will develop in the future.”
That future was supposed to start this week, but Mexico underperformed on the pitch and played all three games before disappointing crowds in a city where more than 30,000 people showed up to support club side Tigres Femenil feminine.
Still, it gave the best team in the world everything they could handle and more on Monday. Maybe De Luisa’s investment will pay off sooner rather than later.
“We have to keep supporting what’s coming,” Vergara said. “It’s the next process.”