March 13, 2016
WEARING THE CROWN
U.S. U17 Women win CONCACAF title
ST. GEORGES, Grenada - Forward Civana Kuhlmann scored a dramatic game-winner in the 86th minute as the U.S. Under-17 Women's National Team won the 2016 CONCACAF U-17 Women's Championship with a 2-1 victory against Mexico.
Ashley Sanchez opened the scoring with her fifth goal of the tournament in the 43rd minute and Mexico equalized in the 69th to set the stage for Kuhlmann's heroics.
"It's been an emotional two weeks and it's been a hard-fought two weeks," said U.S. head coach B.J. Snow. "The girls are ecstatic, and I'm proud of them for pushing through some adversity today. Five games in nine days in this heat against this type of competition is tough, and every game we had was very difficult. The girls learned from it and pushed themselves through some things they've never had to deal with before. It was a total team effort."
The U.S. took the first half lead when a ball was played over the top and bounced in the penalty area. Alessandra Ramirez headed it up in the air and Sanchez was first to the falling ball, deftly lifting it over the defender and goalkeeper into the open net for her fifth goal of the tournament.
Mexico got the equalizer when they put together a nice build up down the right side and served a cross into the middle where Maricarmen Reyes collected well at the top of the box. She then played a pass square to Jacquilline Ovalle, who took a touch into the penalty area on the left side and hit a perfect shot just inside the right post past diving U.S. goalkeeper Laurel Ivory.
The winner came when 79th minute substitute Sophia Smith fought off a defender on the right wing and whipped in a cross. Kuhlmann timed her run perfectly and knifed through the goal area to smash home a volley with her knee. It was her fourth goal of the tournament.
Sanchez won the Golden Ball as the tournament's top player and Ivory, who played every minute in goal for the USA, won the Golden Glove as the top goalkeeper in the competition. Ivory, who had little to do for most of the tournament, made a huge save near the end of the game to keep it knotted at 1-1, getting her gloves on a shot with a dive to her right that helped the ball bounce just wide right of the post.
Seven U.S. players made the Best XI Team for the tournament: Ivory, Naomi Girma, Kennedy Wesley, Brianna Pinto, Jaelin Howell, Sanchez and Kuhlmann
The USA had already booked its place in the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan with a 5-0 victory against Canada in the semifinal on March 11, but the championship game triumph gives the USA its third U-17 CONCACAF title (2008, 2012, 2016). Mexico earned its berth to the Women's World Cup via a 3-0 semifinal win against Haiti, while Canada booked CONCACAF's final World Cup spot with a 4-2 win against Haiti in the third place match.
The USA had far more dangerous chances, including a shot from Kuhlmann in the first half that smacked off the crossbar at the upper left corner, but Mexico goalkeeper Miriam Aguirre made numerous big-time saves to keep the game close.
Ovalle, who scored Mexico's earlier equalizer, hit the outside of the right post in the dying seconds of the match