After a scoreless first half, Lindsey Horan's header in the 53rd minute was all the U.S. Women's National Team needed against Canada, winning the CONCACAF Women's Championship for the fourth straight time, 2-0, in Houston on Sunday afternoon.
Horan's goal came off a cross from Becky Sauerbrunn, who was honored by U.S. Women's Soccer before the match for playing in her 100th cap against the Canadians:
That assist from Sauerbrunn also made her the 11th different player from the U.S. team to record an assist during this year's tournament, per CONCACAF.
Tobin Heath scored once more in the second half to improve the United States' all-time record against Canada to 47-3-6, per USSoccer.com.
The United States already clinched a berth in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with its 5-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago on Friday, as did Canada with its 3-1 win over Costa Rica. This meeting between the two countries was just to determine the winners of CONCACAF, and the U.S. women proved to be the best team on Sunday.
Scoring chances for both sides were at a minimum in the early going of the match. Both teams played stellar defense, most notably Canada. The Canadians did a great job containing the United States, not allowing the Americans to cross the midfield line, as U.S. Women's Soccer noted:
Canada was also not at full strength coming into this match. Captain Christine Sinclair (calf) and goalkeeper Erin McLeod (knee) were ailing heading into this CONCACAF final, per Neil Davidson of CBC Sports.
Despite its best goalscorer and veteran goalkeeper not in top form, Canada put on a strong display in the first half, per Jeff Kassouf of NBC Sports:
The United States finally found some scoring chances at the 22-minute mark. Meghan Klingenberg delivered a terrific cross toward Carli Lloyd, but the header from the sixth-best scorer in U.S. women's soccer history went wide of the net.
While continuing to dominate possession in the first half, the United States continued to put pressure on Canada at the net but failed to score. At the 39-minute mark, the U.S. received a corner kick. Lloyd went for the ball but was taken down by Canada's Melissa Tancredi, and the official called the foul on Lloyd.
It was a glimpse of how physical and intense of a game this was for two teams that already clinched their spots in the Olympics, per Kassouf:
Just under 10 minutes after Horan's second career goal, Heath found the back of the net for this goal to give the United States the two-goal lead, per CONCACAF:
Once the United States put goals on the board, it relied on defense to keep Canada away from the net. Canada recorded only one shot and possessed the ball for only 39 percent of the match. The U.S. had seven shots; five of them were off target, while the other two were the goals that resulted in the win.
The U.S. women have to be heading into Rio as the favorites to win gold for the second Olympics in a row. After a strong performance throughout in the World Cup, along with their performance in CONCACAF, it's clear the depth of talent goes beyond Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Lloyd, thanks to Heath's and Horan's aid with the goalscoring.
Canada will head into Rio as a sleeper. The Canadians were moments away from upsetting the United States four years ago in the Olympics until Abby Wambach and Morgan won the match in overtime. But with a healthy Sinclair, Canada will have as strong of a chance as the United States to make a run at the gold.
U.S. men's soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann was one of the notable figures to congratulate the women on a well-played CONCACAF tournament, which included no goals allowed during the entire event:
When talking about stars on the U.S. team, Lloyd feels Heath needs some praise for what she brings to the group, per Caitlin Murray of the Guardian:
Although it wasn't the outcome the Canadians expected, center back Shelina Zadorsky felt playing against the best of the best was "a good experience," though she would have liked to see her team improve upon its silver medal.
“We came here to win the CONCACAF final, so of course it’s disappointing,” said Zadorsky, per CanadaSoccer.com. “We are going to learn from it. It’s a good experience playing the world's No. 1 team, so we are going to move up from here.”