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SPORTS

US Falls to Mexico for the Second Time Ever, Losing 2-0 in the Women’s Gold Cup

February 27, 2024

CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Mexico beat the United States for the second time ever, getting goals from Lizbeth Ovalle and Mayra Pelayo for a 2-0 victory Monday night in the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup.

The U.S. entered the game 40-1-1 against its rival, with its only previous loss a 2-1 decision during Women’s World Cup qualifying in 2010.

It was the first loss for the U.S. under interim coach Twila Kilgore, who took over after the team’s dramatic exit from the Women’s World Cup last summer in the round of 16. Emma Hayes will take over for Kilgore this spring.

Mexico, which failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup, finished atop Group A in the Gold Cup while the United States finished second. Both teams advanced to the knockout round.

“They went out and they were bold, they were brave with the dream of playing a good game against the United States,” Mexico coach Pedro Lopez Ramos said.

Ovalle, who plays for Tigres of Monterrey, put Mexico ahead in the 28th minute. U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn tried to defend Ovalle but kicked the ball right at her. Ovalle floated a shot over goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and two U.S. defenders and into the net.

It was the first goal conceded by the U.S. to a CONCACAF opponent in 33 matches.

United States forward Sophia Smith, front, falls while vying for the ball against, from back left to right, Mexico defender Rebeca Bernal, midfielder Alexia Delgado and defender Cristina Ferral during a CONCACAF Gold Cup women’s soccer tournament match, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

“I think it just shows how far the game is coming and there’s no easy games anymore. And if we don’t take care of business and we don’t execute, this is to be expected,” Kilgore said. “We’ll step up and take ownership in that and I think anytime you have a group that is willing to take ownership in things like this, it’s a good thing for the future of the tournament. Everything’s still on the table and we’ll be motivated, that’s for sure.”

Sauerbrunn took full responsibility for the goal, both on the field and in the locker room afterward.

“As a veteran, you know, you have some rough days at the office and tonight is definitely a rough day,” she said. “But luckily, you’ll have another day at the office and it’s just what you make out of it.

Mexico nearly scored again in first-half stoppage time but Karla Nieto’s shot from distance hit the crossbar.

Kiana Palacios had a good chance to give Mexico a cushion but her shot hit defender Abby Dahlkemper and bounded away.

By that time, Mexico could feel its momentum.

Pelayo scored from distance in stoppage time and Mexico’s players celebrated wildly on the field.

“If we lose in the quarterfinals, then the beautiful win of today is useless,” Lopez Ramos said through a translator. “I hope that this is not an isolated moment.”

The United States saw success from its teenagers in the first two games of the tournament. Olivia Moultrie, 18, scored twice in a 5-0 victory over the Dominican Republic and Jaedyn Shaw, 19, scored a pair in a 4-0 victory over Argentina.

But Mexico played surprisingly tough and the United States could not rebound after conceding that first goal.

“I would say 2010, in that game, playing in Cancun, that stadium, I think we were all a little bit surprised by that result of qualifying for the World Cup,” said Sauerbrunn, who played in that loss 14 years ago. “I would say tonight that we never take any opponent for granted. I think they had a game plan and they executed it better than than what we had for our game plan. So that’s all on us.”

This is the first-ever Women’s Gold Cup, created to give women’s teams in the CONCACAF region more competitive matches. Twelve teams played group-stage matches across three cities: Carson, San Diego and Houston.

Argentina beat the Dominican Republic 3-0 earlier Monday in Group A.

The teams will be re-seeded following the group stage, so Mexico and the United States will have to wait to learn their opponents in the quarterfinals.

“The fact that everyone in that locker room can say they played a part in it is a big deal,” Diana Ordonez said afterward. “We’re just really proud but we know that we still have work to do.”

___
By ANNE M. PETERSON AP Sports Writer

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