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United States Women’s National Team W Gold Cup group stage review

A surprise 2-0 defeat to Mexico has knocked the USWNT slightly off its stride, meaning the Stars and Stripes finished second in Group A at the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup.

It was far from being a fatal blow as just four teams out of the original field of 12 will not make it through to the quarterfinals, but it is still a dent to the pride of Twila Kilgore’s team that they will have not topped Group A.

Here we take a look at how the tournament has gone so far, what have been the positives for the USWNT to take and how the remainder of the tournament may be mapped out for them.

La Tri defeat a big shock

Few people would have expected anything other than for the USA to coast through their group at the CONCACAF W Gold Cup, but Mexico upset the odds by beating them 2-0 on Monday.

La Tri were organized superbly and the Americans were unable to make inroads offensively, paying the price when Lizbeth Ovalle chipped Mexico into a surprise lead.

The USA continued to bash on the door but there was no way through and their defeat was confirmed when Mayra Pelayo-Bernal struck in the closing stages.

The Mexicans deserved their victory, but the fact Mexico had 13 shots to the Americans' nine perhaps showed how far the USWNT have been from their best of late.

Kilgore said that the result had demonstrated that no game in international football can be taken for granted, but it is not ideal when considering the USWNT suffered a poor World Cup when they were beaten on penalties by Sweden, having won 3-0 against Vietnam but being held to draws against the Netherlands and Portugal.

At that tournament, there was a feeling that they would eventually kick into action but their improvement never came and it will be key for them to get straight back on the front foot against whoever they face in the quarterfinals this weekend.

Positive signs in opening two matches

Some of the statistics around the Mexico game really brought home the seismic nature of the surprising result in Carson.

It was only the second time in 43 meetings that the USWNT had lost against their neighbors and the first time in 33 matches against CONCACAF opponents that they had conceded a goal.

The USA are used to having things their own way in the region and maybe this is a sign of things to come, especially as Mexico defied the odds having failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

In their other group games, the USWNT had few problems and it was some of the young players who stood out.

This was always set to be a transitional tournament with younger players being given the chance to impress and with Kilgore only in interim charge until Chelsea manager Emma Hayes takes the reins at the end of the Women’s Super League season.

She will have been delighted to see 18-year-old Olivia Moultrie score twice in the 5-0 win against the Dominican Republic and for Jaedyn Shaw to score two goals in their subsequent 4-0 win over Argentina.

There should be scope for both of them to grow into the tournament now they have reached the knockout stage, so it is not a case of all doom and gloom.

Patience needed to discover knockout opponents

The USWNT will be desperate to get back to winning ways, but they are yet to know who their opponents will be in the last eight.

The teams who qualify for the knockout stage will be ranked from one to eight depending on their record in the group matches, so the team with the best record will play the eighth-ranked team, the second best will play the seventh-ranked team and so on.

That means all the groups will have to be decided before the quarter-final matchups are finalized.

The USA remain second in FIFA’s rankings behind World Cup winners Spain with CONCACAF rivals Canada 10th and Mexico coming next in the list at 35th, so they should be confident that they can still go all the way whoever they face in the quarterfinals.

But the path has already been far from smooth so if Hayes knew about the quality of the players she will have at her disposal when she takes the job, she will get a good indication of the state of their character as well in the next week or so.

Odds mentioned in this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.

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