Alyssa Naeher's 3 saves in penalty shootout over Canada leads US into the Gold Cup final

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United States goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, left, celebrates with teammates at the end of the penalty shootout in a CONCACAF Gold Cup women's soccer tournament semifinal match against Canada, Wednesday, March 6, 2024, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

SAN DIEGO – Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher made three saves and converted a penalty herself in a shootout after a rain-soaked 2-2 draw with Canada on Wednesday night, earning the United States a spot in the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup final.

The United States advanced 3-1 on penalties and will play Brazil in the title game on Sunday evening. Brazil defeated Mexico 3-0 in the earlier semifinal match.

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The game was a sloppy mess with standing water on the field at San Diego's Snapdragon Stadium from heavy rain in San Diego. The players had difficulty with control. Canada's Vanessa Gilles twisted the front of her soaked jersey to squeeze out some of the rainwater.

Afterward, U.S. coach Twila Kilgore was asked whether the game should have been played.

“Probably not. But those decisions aren’t my decisions,” she said. “If the referees make those decisions, and the game goes on, it’s our job to figure out how to win.”

Jaedyn Shaw scored in the 20th minute. A Canada defender tried to send the ball back to goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, but it stopped on the waterlogged field and Shaw ran up on it and scored.

Shaw is the first U.S. player to score in each of her first four starts.

Jordyn Huitema tied it up in the 82nd minute with a header that was beyond Naeher's reach.

Sophia Smith of the U.S. broke the stalemate in the 99th, falling to her knees in celebration before she was mobbed by her teammates. But Naeher collided with Gilles in the 120th minute and Canada was awarded a penalty, which Adriana Leon calmly converted to tie the match at 2.

Naeher had two saves to open the shootout, and then converted on a penalty of her own. She stopped Jesse Fleming with a final save to send a jubilant U.S. team to the title match.

“Being able to adjust to any sort of conditions is always a part of it and it takes a certain mentality to do that,” Kilgore said. "We did that today and we’re not going to shy away from celebrating that because it’s not easy.”

With Brazil's victory, the United States was denied a match against Mexico, which pulled off the biggest upset of the group stage in downing the United States 2-0. It was just the second time the Americans had lost to their southern neighbors in 43 meetings.

The U.S. rebounded from that loss with a 3-0 victory over Colombia in the quarterfinals. Canada, which scored 13 goals in its group without conceding a goal, got by Costa Rica 1-0 in extra time in its quarterfinal match.

The U.S. has only lost to Canada once in the 14 times they’ve met in knockout rounds at competitive tournaments.

It was Canada's first major tournament without captain Christine Sinclair, who retired from the national team last year as soccer's all-time leading goal scorer among men or women with 190 career goals.

Mexico went on to eliminate Paraguay 3-2 in the quarterfinals. Brazil routed Argentina 5-1.

Brazil got goals from Adriana Leal, Antonia and Yasmin, while Mexico was a player down after Nicolette Hernandez was sent off in the 29th minute.

The tournament was the first women’s Gold Cup, designed to give teams in the region meaningful competition. Four of the teams that participated — the United States, Canada, Brazil and Colombia — will play in the Paris Olympics.


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