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Smith’s Wonder Goals Help USWNT Clinch 2023 Women’s World Cup Berth

The USWNT is cruising right through the Concacaf W Championship. A pair of early Sophia Smith worldies helped the two-time defending world champion smoke Jamaica 5-0 on Thursday in Mexico. The result clinched a spot in the 2023 Women’s World Cup while inching the team closer to a spot in the 2024 Olympics. 

Smith sparked the Americans with two early goals for a second straight win after the U.S. beat Haiti 3-0 in the opener on Monday. The top four teams at the Concacaf W Championship qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup while the winner books its trip to the 2024 Olympics. (The second- and third-place teams face off in a playoff next year for the final Olympic berth.)

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The U.S. had to wait for the second match on Thursday to officially punch its ticket to Australia/New Zealand. Haiti’s surprising 3-0 win over host Mexico confirmed the USWNT’s spot in the 2023 Women’s World Cup as the 12th team to qualify and first from Concacaf. Mexico needs just short of miracle to keep its slim World Cup hopes alive. La Tri must beat the USWNT, hope Haiti and Jamaica don’t tie and make up significant goal difference. 

The five-goal outburst was a bit of a surprise against the Reggae Girlz, who qualified for the 2019 World Cup and beat Mexico 1-0 on Monday. The USWNT struggled at times to break down Colombia in two warm-up friendlies but created chances nearly at will on Thursday. The Americans racked up 20 shots — 11 on target — with 68 percent possession. Alyssa Naeher made two easy saves to record the clean sheet.

Jamaica looked a bit out of sorts, perhaps tired after a tough win over Mexico on Monday, a result arguably more important for the Reggae Girlz. Losing by five, however, will hurt Jamaica’s goal difference, should it come down to such a tie breaker.

USWNT vs Jamaica Highlights

The Americans wasted little time putting pressure on the Reggae Girlz. Smith scored two goals in the first eight minutes, starting with a lovely move where she lofted the ball over her defender before curling in an outside-of-the-foot volley into the far post, the type of trivela that would make Ricardo Quaresma blush

A few minutes later the lead was doubled through a Sofia-Sophia link up. Sofia Huerta sent a high through ball into the box and Smith was first to it, dinking it over keeper Rebecca Spencer. Though the ball was cleared off the line, the assistant referee ruled it had gone over the line first, and the VAR upheld the call.

It looked like Ashley Hatch had a third moments later, but the officials ruled she was offside, a call I still can’t figure out. Mal Pugh also had a first-half goal called back by the VAR for offside, but this one was the correct call. Nonetheless, the two goals called back for offside evoked memories of last summer’s Olympics, when the USWNT had about two million goals disallowed

Early in the second half, Hatch nearly scored again, this time doing her best James Rodriguez impression. The Washington Spirit striker chested the ball to herself before turning to hit a vicious volley that whizzed just wide. 

The third goal finally came from Rose Lavelle. Ashley Sanchez got in behind the defense before sending a cross that eventually found her fellow midfielder for a short-range finish. 

Kristie Mewis converted an 83rd-minute penalty to show that the U.S. can in fact convert spot kicks after missing two against Colombia in June.

Trinity Rodman then finished the scoring with her second career international goal. The daughter of Dennis Rodman usually plays out wide but replaced Hatch and showed her center forward abilities with a fine finish in front of goal.

The U.S. concludes the group stage against host Mexico on Monday. A win or draw will seal first place in Group A. The semifinals begin on July 14. 

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