Kallman battles for the ball in an earlier game in the tournament against Cuba.
The U.S. U-20 WNT made a dramatic comeback win against Canada on Sunday evening in Panama City, Panama, allowing the Americans to hoist the championship trophy. By getting to the final the US had already qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup which will be held in Japan from Aug. 19 to Sept. 8.
Canada got out to an early lead in this CONCACAF final when Jenna Richardson scored in just the 5th minute of action. She intercepted a pass from U.S. defender Crystal Dunn and after beating her defender, slotted a shot far post past goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin to put the Canadians up 1-0. Despite plenty of pressure the US was not able to break down Canada for the rest of the first half.
“At halftime we talked about playing our game and that, no matter what, we’re not going to not play soccer,” said Minnesotan Kassey Kallman, a central defender on the team. “We’re going to keep the ball and possess, our style. We had some good opportunities in the first half so we just focused on making sure that we’re finishing our chances when we get them.”
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The US attempted to play catch up the rest of the match and Canada proved difficult to break down. Applying plenty of pressure the US continued to pound on the Canadians but it wasn’t until the 79th minute that the Americans finally broke through with a Maya Hayes goal assisted by Kealia Ohai. Hayes was fed by Ohai who had used her speed to break free. She crossed to Ohai who chested the ball down then dribbled square, left to right across the box before going low, far post to tally the first for the US.
The goal seemed to encourage the US by asserting more pressure on the northern neighbors until they finally got their game winner one minute before full time. After breaking free on the left side, Ohai played in a cross that rebounded off a Canadian defender. Chioma Ubogagu won the ball in the box and knocked it into the net with a lunge for the win and the Championship.
Ohai proved to be key in the US comeback and assisted on both goals, the first just 3 minutes after being substituted into the game in the 76th minute of play.
“When the first goal went in, obviously, we were disappointed but I feel like we kept our heads up, played our game and persevered through it and we ended up coming out on top,” Kallman said. “When we scored our first goal, it was just an amazing feeling. Everyone was super excited. Once we scored, we knew we were back in it and ready to finish another one.”
The US ended up outshooting the Canadians 28 to 7 with 11 shots on goal to 4 forcing 9 saves from Canadian goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo. The US dominated Canada in almost every aspect of the game including a whopping 14-2 corner kick dominance.
“Winning the CONCACAF championship against Canada was incredible,” Kallman explained. “It’s such an amazing feeling after the game, especially being so close and coming out at the end, persevering through the whole game being down and finishing those two goals to come back was an incredible feeling. When the referee blew the whistle I felt really relieved and it was just an incredible feeling. I’ve never felt anything like it.”
Kallman said the perseverance of the team and the comeback win certainly helps the team as it will prepare for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. “Going in, we have momentum but we’re going to go back and train and work on the things that we need to work on to get better.”
“Credit Canada, they’re a tough team to break down and I thought they played very hard,” said U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team head coach Steve Swanson. “But full marks to our players. They really came back and showed a lot of determination and heart and hung in there. I was happy to see us win it before overtime. We had the momentum at that point when we scored the equalizer and it was just nice to see it carry through. It was a good tournament for us. We learned a lot and were tested, and are looking forward to the next phase which is getting ready for the World Cup.”i