The play of Zoe Redei is one of the reasons why the United States finished Group B play at the 2013 CONCACAF Women's Under-17 Championship with a perfect record. (Photo: Mexsport)
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – In order to capture first place in Group B and avoid a tricky semifinal date against fantastically-supported tournament host Jamaica, the United States needed to defeat Canada on Monday in their 2013 CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship tilt.
Though the two sides were level on six points, the Canadians were in the driver’s seat on goal difference.
At the conclusion of 90 minutes at Catherine Hall Stadium, the Americans achieved their objective, winning 2-0 by employing a high-pressure style that severely limited Canada’s offensive opportunities.
“We had to be really well organized,” said U.S. head coach B. J. Snow. “We knew that Canada was going to try to move the ball around, their team shape was very good, and we had to execute the plan both offensively and defensively to give ourselves a chance to win.
“I was really proud of the girls taking the plan and executing.”
One the players charged with following through on Snow’s instructions was Zoe Redei. After not appearing in the opener, the 16-year-old forward has been a revelation in the last two group games, scoring five goals in total and assisting on another.
“One of our goals was to win the group and we did that today, so I’m really proud of the girls,” she said after the game. “I think we did a really good job. They (Canada) were a really tough team, but we managed to be really aggressive and go after them and finish our chances.”
The U.S. not only advanced to the semifinals for a fourth time in as many tries, it remained as the only team to never lose a game in the competition’s history, improving to 17-1-0 all-time.
Despite the record’s impressive nature, Snow was philosophical about the topic, knowing that he has to keep the team focused on the future.
“Certainly we are proud of the history and tradition of our program, but at the same time, it’s a new group of individuals who have never been in the spotlight before,” said the 36-year-old. “This is the first time they’ve played in this environment so for them it’s new. It’s great that they can hear the stories about the past, but ultimately it’s theirs to go out there and try to win and so far I’ve been proud of their efforts because we’ve had some speed bumps along the way where we’ve learned a lot about ourselves.”
Next up for the defending champion is a semifinal encounter against Mexico. The Tricolor advanced as Group A runner-up, defeating El Salvador (7-0) and drawing with Haiti (1-1) and Jamaica (1-1).
In previous tournament meetings between the rivals, the U.S. is 2-0-0, scoring four goals and allowing none. In 2008, the Americans prevailed in their only semifinal face-off, winning 1-0 on a Crystal Dunn’s goal in second-half stoppage time.
On this occasion, the winner earns a berth at the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica. The loser is eliminated from contention completely.
“We’ll come out and try to beat Mexico,” expressed Redei. “They are a really good team, but we’ll just try to win the game.”
If the USA’s extraordinary efforts against Canada in a must-win situation is anything to go by, there is no doubt that they will do much more than try.