The players and staff then watched Haiti rout Mexico, 3-0 — a result that clinched a 2023 World Cup berth for the top-ranked United States.
With four berths to come from this eight-team regional competition, there was never much doubt the Americans (2-0-0) would advance to the tournament next summer in Australia and New Zealand. They accomplished it in just two group matches.
A once highly anticipated clash with Mexico (0-2-0) on Monday has lost its fizz. Instead, the game between Jamaica (1-1-0) and Haiti (1-1-0) will decide Group A’s other World Cup berth.
This tournament will also award one automatic berth in the 2024 Olympics, but that will come down to the tournament final July 18. (A second slot will be determined next year.) Canada (1-0-0), Costa Rica (1-0-0), Panama (0-1-0) and Trinidad and Tobago (0-1-0) compose Group B.
On Thursday, the four-time world champions breezed. Three days after veteran Alex Morgan provided an early two-goal cushion against Haiti, 21-year-old Sophia Smith did the same.
Rose Lavelle, Kristie Mewis and 20-year-old Trinity Rodman scored in the second half on the third anniversary of the U.S. World Cup championship in France, the program’s fourth since FIFA took the women’s game global in 1991.
The Americans were better Thursday at Estadio BBVA than they were in the 3-0 victory over Haiti on Monday at Estadio Universitario. They set the terms and did not relent. Smith scored in the fifth and eighth minutes.
On the first strike, she used a clever touch at speed to dodge Deneisha Blackwood before applying a cheeky finish. Better positioned to use her left foot, she opted for the outside of her right, sending an angled bid into the far side of the net.
“That was sick,” Lavelle marveled.
Three minutes later, Smith beat goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer to Sophia Huerta’s long ball, poking it toward the target. Jamaican defender Allyson Swaby cleared the ball as it was crossing the goal line. Initially, play continued, but the assistant referee signed a goal — a ruling confirmed by video replay.
Smith, second youngest on the team behind Rodman, raised her career total to eight goals in 18 appearances.
“I’m definitely still playing a role of learning from the older players and knowing my place,” she said. “But at the same time, I’m very confident with where I am despite my age.”
U.S. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said for Smith to be a full-time starter at her age on the world’s top team “is not easy. It comes with lots of weight in that she wants to be the best every time she steps on the field. She’s a perfectionist. She wants to score a goal, two goals.”
Jamaica Coach Lorne Donaldson, a fixture on the Denver youth soccer scene, coached both Smith and U.S. forward Mallory Pugh for years.
“They’re like family; they’re still family,” he said. “You give [Smith] half a chance, she’s going to take it. I don’t expect less from her.”
The Reggae Girlz were overmatched and out of sorts.
“We played sh—y,” Donaldson said. “You’re not going to play the world champs and play that bad and expect anything would come out it. We weren’t good.”
His prized player, Manchester City striker Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, was no factor after scoring in the 1-0 victory over Mexico on Monday.
Naomi Girma and Alana Cook (15 combined appearances), the U.S. central defense, were unfazed.
“I was very pleased that we did not allow them to be dangerous,” Andonovski said. “There was nothing that scared us at any point in time.”
The Americans did not let up, but offside calls negated two apparent goals.
In assessing the attack, Andonovski said, “I just would like to see them be a little more clinical with the final touch.”
He then grinned and added, “And stay onside.”
Lavelle stretched the lead in the 59th minute, one-timing Ashley Sanchez’s cross from close range for her 21st career goal.
Mewis converted a penalty kick in the 83rd minute after Margaret Purce was taken down. Three minutes later, Pugh’s cross connected with Rodman for an easy finish from close range and her second international goal.
“We have such a great group, and every training session, we’re pushing each other super hard,” Rodman said. “And as soon as we get off the [practice] field, we’re best friends again, but on the field, we kill each other.”
The Americans remained perfect against Jamaica: 5-0-0 with a 31-0 scoring differential.
“This was definitely a better game for us,” Lavelle said. “We want to continue to build. The tournament’s not over. It’s just going to keep getting harder from here. It was a good game to get some goals — a good confidence booster.”
Notes: The U.S. Soccer Federation is in the process of scheduling two friendlies for the women’s team in each of three FIFA international windows: Aug. 29-Sept. 6, Oct. 3-11 and Nov. 7-15. The matches in the first and last windows will be played at U.S. venues, while the sites of the October games haven’t been determined. …
Earnie Stewart signed a contract extension to remain the USSF’s sporting director through 2026, people familiar with the deal said. His previous pact was to expire this December. Stewart, a former U.S. World Cup attacker, joined the federation in 2018 as general manager of the men’s national team, then shifted to the broader role a year later.