USWNT beats Colombia as key qualifiers loom

Soccer

The United States women’s national team made hard work out of its 2-0 friendly win over Colombia at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday that included an hour-long delay due to lightning and severe weather in Sandy, Utah.

Vlatko Andonovski’s side had already beaten Colombia 3-0 on Saturday and was playing its last warmup match ahead of the CONCACAF W Championship in Monterrey, Mexico, where spots in the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and the 2024 Olympics in Paris are on the line.

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Among the starters for the Americans was Carson Pickett, who became the first player to take the field for the USWNT with a limb difference, according to U.S. Soccer. The North Carolina Courage defender was born without part of her left arm.

In the 23rd minute, Sofia Huerta’s cross from the right flank was redirected past Colombia keeper Catalina Perez by Manuela Vanegas for an own goal and a deserved lead for the USWNT after dominating play in the early stages of the match.

Despite the U.S. spending the majority of the first half in Colombia’s defensive third, Perez kept her team in the game with a mix of saves and disruptive play in goal to keep the deficit at one going into the break.

Alyssa Naeher, who suffered a knee injury in last summer’s Olympics, made a stellar save in the 55th minute to keep the U.S. in front, laying out and tipping Leicy Santos’ goalbound shot from outside of the penalty area wide of the far post.

Shortly after the hour mark, Andonovski brought on Mallory Pugh for Megan Rapinoe and Taylor Kornieck for Rose Lavelle, as he continued to spread around minutes and playing time ahead of a packed qualifying schedule in July. Trinity Rodman and Kristie Mewis had already come off the bench at the start of the second half.

Just after the 75th minute, the teams were taken off the field due to lightning and severe weather in the area, giving both sides a chance to reset for the final quarter-hour.

The break paid off for the U.S., which came back to the field after the near hour delay and immediately doubled the lead when substitute Kelly O’Hara lashed a first-time volley past Perez to put the Americans up 2-0.

The USWNT, which is now unbeaten in 69 straight games on home soil, will play Mexico, Jamaica and Haiti in Group A at the CONCACAF W Championship, which begins on July 4, while Canada, Costa Rica, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago will face off in Group B.

The top two teams in each group earn CONCACAF spots in the 2023 World Cup and the winner of the event will get an automatic berth for the 2024 Olympics.

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