• Sunday Nov 27, 2016

    U-20 WWC win over Mexico, one to remember for U.S.

    USA players (dark jersey) celebrate after scoring game-winning goal against Mexico during their FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup quarterfinal on November 25, 2016, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)

    PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea – It was the first-ever meeting between the United States and Mexico women in a FIFA World Cup at any level.

    And, with slightly more than 10 minutes remaining in normal time of their U-20 Women’s World Cup quarterfinal on Friday, the Mexicans appeared on the verge of a historic victory.

    Within a matter of minutes, though, the tables were suddenly changed by a pair of U.S. substitutes.  Ally Watt equalized in the 80th minute and Kelcie Hedge struck in the second minute of stoppage time – both netting off passes by dynamic 17-year-old Ashley Sanchez – to claim a 2-1 win, as well as a ticket to the semifinals.

    "They did exactly what we asked them to do," said U.S. head coach Michelle French of her second-half replacements.  "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.  Kelcie 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."

    It was never going to be easy for the Americans against Mexico.  They let a two-goal lead slip away in their 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship encounter, as the Mexicans fought back for 2-2 group-stage draw.

    In Papua New Guinea, the U.S. finished first in Group C with just one win, while Mexico captured maximum points twice, but ended up second in Group D.

    At the end of the day, it was two evenly matched sides playing a tightly-contested game; one in which the Mexicans held a significant advantage in shots, 15-4.

    "Mexico was everything we thought they would be and more," French commented.  "I said after the last game (1-1 draw v Ghana) 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.”

    The U.S. has won three U-20 Women’s World Cups, but in only one of those was a quarterfinal this close.  It took extra time to overcome Korea DPR, 2-1, in 2012.  The same squads will meet Tuesday in the final four.

    French, however, wasn’t looking that far ahead.  She was still excited about beating a CONCACAF rival 

    “What a crazy, crazy game and a really fun way to make the semifinal,” finished the 39-year-old.

     

     

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