Born for big moments: Andonovski lauds Morgan

MONTERREY, Mexico — United States women’s coach Vlatko Andonovski had plenty of praise for star player Alex Morgan after she scored the winner against Canada in the CONCACAF W Championship final.

“Alex is a big player and big players are born for big moments. That’s what makes her special,” Andonovski said after Monday’s final at the Estadio BBVA.

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“She’s a winner. She knows how to win big games, she knows how to perform in big games. She’s done it before, she’s won World Cups.”

Morgan’s 78th-minute goal from the penalty spot also clinched a direct spot at the 2024 Olympics for the USWNT. The World Cup holders have now won nine of their previous 10 meetings with Canada in CONCACAF finals.

Reigning Olympic champions Canada will now face Jamaica in a playoff for CONCACAF’s second slot at Paris 2024.

“You know, credit to the U.S., they came right out of the box and we felt that,” Canada coach Bev Priestman said.

“What you’ve seen is World Cup champions against the Olympic champions and I think that’s probably what it felt like. [A] great game, I knew it was going to be tight.”

The U.S. showed patience before walking away with a positive result on Monday. Despite a number of shots — 17 in total, with an xG of 3.14 — the USWNT did not find the back of the net until shortly after the 76th minute, when midfielder Rose Lavelle was fouled in the 18-yard box. Morgan, who would go on to win the award for MVP of the tournament, stepped up, took a deep breath, and sneaked the ball past Canada goalkeeper and San Diego Wave teammate Kailen Sheridan to make it 1-0 — sending the 17,247 fans at the Estadio BBVA into a frenzy.

Andonovski did not seem to not realize that a spot for Paris 2024 had been secured until the postgame news conference.

“I totally forgot about it, we qualified for the Olympics,” Andonovski said, with a laugh and smile. “Obviously the World Cup, that’s [been] our focus since the moment we qualified [through the CONCACAF W group stage]. We started talking about preparation, what it takes to prepare for a World Cup.”

Andonovski was also excited about the future of his national team, noting that he had seen roster changes since their meeting with Canada in last year’s Olympic semifinal in Tokyo, which ended in a 1-0 loss for the U.S.

“It is very obvious that the [U.S.] team is significantly younger than the previous time we played Canada,” Andonovski said, before listing starters who had not been part of the starting XI for the Olympic semifinal defeat, such as Mallory Pugh, Sophia Smith, Andi Sullivan and Emily Fox.

“[They] are going to be here for at least three, maybe four, World Cups, so get used to them,” he said.

Like the U.S., Canada have also qualified for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. In the first game of the Estadio BBVA double-header on Monday night, Jamaica defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in the third-place match, thereby giving them a chance to play Canada for the second Olympic slot.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was in the stands at the Estadio BBVA, later helping hand out awards after the final. It was Infantino’s first visit to the northern Mexican venue since the announcement in June that it would be one of the host sites for the 2026 men’s World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.


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