The 2018 edition of the CONCACAF Women's Championship ended tonight in Chicago as the United States of America and Canada faced off in the final, after it took penalties to separate Panama and Jamaica in the third place match.
Canada 0-2 USA
Familiar foes Canada and the USA squared up against each other in what proved to be a physical encounter on a rain-soaked evening. The USWNT, as they tend to do, found a way to win against Canada and claim the CONCACAF title once again.
The USWNT came out of the gates on fire and their early pressure resulted in a third minute goal by Rose Lavelle. Lindsey Horan broke forward and tried to find Alex Morgan inside the area but her cross was cut out by the Canadian defence. Lavelle picked up the loose ball at the top of the penalty area and curled the ball past the goalkeeper into the far corner of the goal.
Megan Rapinoe and Morgan both had chances to add to the USWNT's lead in the first half but failed to find the back of the net. Canada, for the most part in that first 45 minutes, seemed determined to slow down their opponents with some heavy challenges instead of trying to find an equaliser. That resulted in a slew of yellow cards and their only chance of the game coming from a header from Kadeisha Buchanan that Alyssa Naeher put out of play easily.
The second half saw a better showing from Canada as they concentrated on actually playing football instead of trying to foul the USWNT at every opportunity. There was some great build up play by Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt and substitute Adriana Leon at various points in the match but they could not find a way to trouble Naeher in goal as the US' backline stayed alert. Their lack of penetration would be punished as the US found a way to create a shot on goal late in the game. Abby Dahlkemper sent a dangerous free kick which found it's way to Lindsey Horan and the midfielder then squared the ball for Morgan to race onto and finish past the advancing Stephanie Labbé. Morgan was definitely offside but as the goal was not called back, the US celebrated a guaranteed win thanks to that goal.
The matches between these two sides are never pretty but the US continue to find the goals required to defeat Canada. If the two teams meet up in France next year, we may see more of the same and whichever team takes their chances or finds their way first, will win that match up.
Panama (2) 2-2 (4) Jamaica
With a place in France next year beckoning, it was Jamaica that held their nerve in a penalty shoot out to earn their first ever World Cup berth. The Reggae Girls took the lead twice against Panama only for the Central Americans to come back on two occasions to force the tie to penalties.
Khadija Shaw opened the scoring in the 14 minute when she headed home a good cross from Jody Brown into the box and Jamaica stayed in front for most of the match. In the 74 minute however, Panama put together a quick build up in transition and Natalia Mills raced onto the through ball before pulling Panama level. In extra time, Jamaica took the lead again thanks to 16-year-old Jody Brown who raced past her marker before finishing into the near corner of the goal. Panama were not broken and substitute Lineth Cedeño was the first onto a poor clearance by Jamaica before lobbing the goalkeeper, pulling Panama level again.
With penalties looming, Jamaica manager Merron Gordon made a tactical change and brought on veteran goalkeeper Nicole McClure for the shoot out. It proved to be an inspired move as McClure saved a penalty from Kenia Rangel for Dominique Bond-Flasza to tuck her spot kick away and to put Jamaica through to the World Cup.
Panama will now go into a two-game play off against Argentina to try and book their place in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup and if they play like they did at this tournament, they have every chance of making their first ever World Cup appearance as well.