Mexico qualifies for U-17 Women’s World Cup
Mexico, shown above celebrating, overcame the United States on penalty kicks in their CONCACAF Women's Under-17 Championship semifinal encounter on November 7, 2013, in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  (Photo: Mexsport)

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Mexico topped the United States 4-2 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw on Thursday to book a place in the CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship final, as well as earn a ticket to the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

Goalkeeper Emily Alvarado saved two American attempts, including the last one from Zoe Morse, to eliminate the defending champion.  The Mexicans converted successfully on each of their four attempts. 

The result was particularly stunning in that the U.S. has never officially lost a game in the competition (17-2-0), but it has progressed to the World Cup only twice in four tries.  Canada eliminated the Americans from contention at the same stage in 2010, 5-3 on penalties, after a scoreless stalemate.

Equally astonishing, Mexico has won only once in this year’s edition – a 7-0 victory over El Salvador -- to go along with three ties.

The Mexicans took a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute at Catherine Hall Stadium.  A left-sided cross by the tireless Janae Gonzalez found Briana Woodall, who headed in sharply from eight-yards out for her first goal of the tournament.

Madison Haley led the U.S. response, missing wide of the left post and flashing a header just beyond the right, before netting the 27th minute equalizer.  Mallory Pugh unbalanced the Mexican defense by sprinting into the left side of the box, crossing for Haley to power home from six yards.

From there, the Americans enjoyed increasing amounts of possession, but could not craft an opportunity to break the deadlock. 

Zoe Redei forced Alvarado into a 34th minute stop, while Anika Rodriguez’s strike ten minutes later from the left did not breach the goal line after hitting the goalkeeper and the post.

In first-half stoppage time, Mexico’s Betzy Cuevas stripped Tegan McGrady near the right side of the American’s endline.  She passed the ball back towards the edge of the 18-yard box for Woodall to fire directly at goalkeeper Lauren Rood.

The Tricolor had a quality opportunity to take the lead in the 58th minute.  Rood was whistled for an infraction after she put the ball down on the ground, took a touch and picked it up with her hands 18-yards out from goal.  Rebeca Bernal’s indirect free kick, though, was saved by a diving Rood.

In the 68th minute, a long-distance effort by American Natalie Jacobs was caught easily by Alvarado.

Inside a minute, however, Mexico could have retaken the lead.  A miskick by the USA’s Elisabeth Jean in the box allowed Eva Gonzalez to race onto the ball and blaze over the crossbar from 18-yards.

With five minutes left in regulation, Kelcie Hedge’s right-sided cross found Mia Gyau alone at the left post.  The 15-year-old could not connect.

In penalty kicks, Bernal, Eva Gonzalez, Miriam Garcia and Arlett Tovar all struck for Mexico, while Tegan McGrady and Mallory Pugh did the same for the United States. 

Mexico will play the winner of Jamaica-Canada in Sunday’s final.  The Americans will meet the loser in the match for third place the same day.