Juarez makes her mark for Mexico at CU17W

Gabriela Suarez (green jersey) earned her first CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Championship start for Mexico in a win over Jamaica on March 8, 2016, in St. George's, Grenada. (Photo: Mexsport)

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada – Gabriela Juarez didn’t touch the ball. It wasn’t necessary.

Yet, with supreme soccer sense, she was responsible for Mexico’s lone goal in a 1-0 win over Jamaica on Tuesday that clinched the Tricolor a spot in the 2016 CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s Championship semifinals.

With four minutes left in the first half of a scoreless deadlock, Daniela Espinosa found herself in the right side of the Jamaican area. She looked up and saw a pair of teammates behind her and to the left. The forward then delivered a pass through the semicircle. Juarez let the ball roll by and smartly shielded her defender in the process, allowing the unmarked Jacqueline Ovalle to fire a low, left-footed shot into the right corner from 19-yards out.

It was the type of smart play that can make a difference in a tight game. And, on this occasion, that’s exactly what happened.

“I saw her (Ovalle) underneath me and so she was yelling my name a little bit,” said Juarez, a 16-year-old forward, in describing the clever sequence. “I saw the defender trying to come towards her, so I used my arms to shield her out of the way in order to put {Jacqueline] on her left foot because I knew she was left-footed.

“She took a touch and ripped it. Goal.”

Indeed, it was a goal...one that could easily be underrated; one that proved to be enough for Mexico to continue defense of its CONCACAF crown.

The Mexicans can secure a place in the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and the CU17W final with a semifinal win over Haiti on Friday at the Grenada Athletics Stadium.

Juarez, who has been in the Mexico women’s program for nearly seven month, is looking forward to meeting the Caribbean runner-up for a big prize. She’s also hoping that a victory will lead to another game against the United States. In their Group B meeting, the Americans posted a narrow 1-0 triumph.

“We have to do well against Haiti,” the Slammers FC standout finished. “We have to prove that we can make it into the finals and play against the U.S. one more time to show that we have it.”