Whitecaps FC & CONCACAF.com
Canada outlasted the United States 5-3 on penalties following a goalless extra-time draw on Thursday to advance to the final of the 2010 CONCACAF U-17 Women's Championship and qualify for this September's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.
Clarissa Wedemeyer had the lone miss for the USA in the penalty shootout, having struck her spot kick high and over the crossbar to end the World Cup hopes of the heavily-favoured Americans, who finished runners-up in the 2008 U-17 World Cup to North Korea.
Chantale Campbell sealed victory for Canada by scoring the decisive penalty, as Wedemeyer broke down in tears, along with her devastated American teammates. It was Canada's second-straight qualification for a U-17 Women's World Cup.
"It's always been my dream to go to the World Cup and now that we're going there, I just want to cry," said Canadian captain and Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-18 Girls Prospects midfielder Nicole Setterlund, who converted the fourth Canadian penalty in the shootout. "Our team defended really hard. It was a battle. It was a war and we got lucky."
While the U.S. entered the game having outscored their opponents 32-0 in three group-stage matches, Canada had not scored in 143 minutes of action.
The Canadians started with equal possession, but the Americans began to dominate in the second half and had the only chances in extra time, as their northern neighbors played the final 40 minutes without having a shot on target.
Canada had the more dangerous chances in the first half, but the USA thought it had claims for a penalty.
Nour Ghoneim had a low shot from 25 meters in the 15th minute that U.S. goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin had to dive low at the right post to stop. Ghoneim broke in from the right five minutes later and Haeberline partially blocked her shot, but the ball bounced behind her and required American center back Abigail Dahlkemper to head the ball off the goal line. Her header, however, banged off the right post before Haeberlin recovered to gain possession of the ball.
Canadian goalkeeper Sabrina D'Angelo raced out of her penalty area three times in the first seven minutes to stop some seemingly dangerous forays from the U.S. attack. The Americans had one of their best chances in the 45th minute when Taylor Smith and Morgan Brian twice traded passes before Brian's last touch failed her - thus allowing D'Angelo to defuse the danger.
Their clearest chance came 11 minutes earlier when Smith was sent in alone on D'Angelo, but only to be grabbed from behind by the shoulder and shoved by Setterlund. The intervention sent Smith to the ground, while her weak shot was easily grabbed by the Canadian keeper.
The second half was dominated by the United States, as the equally athletic Canadians kept nine players behind the ball and managed to thwart the American attack with a packed penalty area and tight marking.
Canada's counter-attack strategy nearly paid dividends in the 81st minute when Kinley McNicoll was able break into the left side of the American penalty area and volley a low strike. However, Haeberlin raced off her goal line to block the shot with a sliding effort.
The Americans had two prime chances to win it in extra time. Smith broke in at the 93rd minute and only had D'Angelo to beat, but the Canadian keeper was able to block her shot with her right arm. Three minutes later, Havana Solaun had a clean look from 21 meters, but she put her effort just over the crossbar.
Another Whitecaps U-18 Girls Prospects player in striker Abigail Raymer earned her first spell of action at the tournament in Alajuela, Costa Rica, as she replaced defender Haillie Price in the 53rd minute of Thursday's semi.
The result sees Bryan Rosenfeld's Canadian side advance to Saturday's CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship final, where they will face Mexico after they defeated tournament hosts Costa Rica 3-1 in extra time of Thursday's other semifinal. Canada and Mexico join hosts Trinidad & Tobago in representing CONCACAF at the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.