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USWNT VS Canada: Naeher, The National Treasure

The soccer gods have once again blessed us with a North American rivalry game. The United States Women's National team was playing Canada in the SheBelieves Cup final, and this was another thriller.

First Half

Instead of pressing immediately, both teams decided to be patient and take it slow. The first half revealed the USWNT's current problem: a lack of depth in the midfield. It seemed very unorganized, and it took a while for the midfield to fall back into formation once they got the ball back from Canada. Due to this issue, Sophia Smith, the team's star striker, was doomed to play as a defender and score on set pieces.

Towards the end of the half, a team was finally on the scoreboard; however, it was not The United States. Alyssa Naeher left her line to clear the ball out of the penalty box. However, the ball ricocheted off of a Canadian player, and with nobody in goal, Adriana Leon was able to score. The USWNT ended the first half 1-0 down.

Second Half

At the start of the second half, many substitutions were made for the USWNT. Namely, Mallory Swanson was in for Sam Coffey. Swanson immediately changed the tone of the game, as the USWNT was able to start pressing offensively against Canada. In the 50th minute, Sophia Smith scored a screamer from outside the penalty and leveled the game at 1-1.

Not long after her first goal, Sophia Smith was at it again. Lindsey Horan lobbed the ball up the field to Jaedyn Shaw, who passed it to a sprinting Trinity Rodman. Rodman tapped the ball to Smith, who scored a brace and gave the USWNT their first lead at 2-1.

In the final minutes of the second half, Crystal Dunn allegedly fouled a Canadian player in the penalty box, and Canada was awarded a penalty kick. Known for stopping penalty kicks, Alyssa Naeher stepped up the line, ready to block the shot. While she went the right way, Leon's kick was speedy and found its way to the back of the net. Regulation time ended; the game was 2-2, and they were heading into penalty kicks.

Penalty Shootout

Fans everywhere felt deja vu, as this was the second consecutive penalty shootout for these two teams facing each other. Canada's first kick sailed into the goal, and then it was time for Rodman to take her kick. She went for the kick, but it did not have enough power behind it, as it rolled into Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan's arms. Canada was now up 1-0 on penalty kicks.

The shootout continued, and the USWNT and Canada went back and forth on penalties until Alyssa Naeher's superhuman instinct kicked in. She blocked her first penalty against Canada during the third round of kicks. Not only that, she stepped up to the penalty area and was able to bury the ball in the net. Then, she returned to her line and nonchalantly blocked another of Canada's shots.

After that sequence, Lindsey Horan, captain of the USWNT, stepped up, took her kick, and the ball went into the back of the net. The United States just needed one more goal to win the game, and Emily Sonnet took what was supposed to be the game's final shot. Sonnet closing out her 7th SheBelieves cup with the winning goal would have been great if she had not missed the goal. Her ball sailed over the net, and penalties were to continue.

Alyssa Naeher would not let the shootout continue any longer, as she blocked Canada's final shot of the game. Then, Emily Fox, the Arsenal defender, calmly stepped up to the penalty area. She looked down at the ball, looked at the goal, then looked down again. She smoothly slotted the ball in the net, and the game was over; the USWNT had won its 5th consecutive SheBelieves Cup.

MVPs And Final Thoughts

At the end of the tournament, Sophia Smith was awarded the MVP. Without her, the USWNT would have lost this game and the tournament. However, the Woman of the Match award went to the humble Alyssa Naeher. Ever since losing the penalty shootout against Sweden in the World Cup knockout stages, she has been a completely different athlete, and her dedication to the game is admirable.

I have not forgotten that this was also Twila Kilgore's final game as interim coach of the USWNT. Her final record with the team is 11 wins, two draws, and one loss. She has brought the team great success, and the torch is lit and ready to be passed onto Emma Hayes, who has had an outstanding career coaching the Chelsea Women's Football Club across the pond.

Read More Soccer News From Stadium Rant Here: Soccer News


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