Morgan and Co. had nothing to show for a mostly dominant performance on Monday until midfielder Rose Lavelle tripped after dribbling the ball into the penalty area in the 76th minute. Morgan, 33, the best striker in the National Women’s Soccer League, converted the penalty in the 78th for her 118th goal in international play.
“It always feels good to be called a champion, and so this game means a lot to us,” Morgan said after the match on Paramount Plus. She added that Canada “gave us what we paid for” but that she and her teammates could “be pleased with our performance”.
Morgan also acknowledged that his team had indulged in a bit of play just before their penalty, when midfielder Lindsey Horan first got to the spot before giving up the attempt. Morgan then took the ball and beat Canadian goaltender Kailen Sheridan, a teammate of hers on the San Diego Wave of the NWSL.
Canada’s win at the Tokyo Olympics was its first in 20 years against the two-time defending World Cup champion. Canada defeated Sweden for its first Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer; the Americans edged Australia for bronze.
Since then, the top-ranked Americans have gone 15-0-3, with an 11-game winning streak that includes a 3-0 victory over Costa Rica in the semifinals on Thursday. Canada reached Monday’s final beating Jamaica 3-0. The Americans’ win on Monday improved their record against sixth-seeded Canada to 52-4-7.
In a scoreless first half, the Americans generated early and late chances but couldn’t get an authoritative finishing touch. Mallory Pugh twice forced Sheridan into hard saves, but the 24-year-old striker also missed a free kick inside the penalty area. Later in the half, striker Sophia Smith couldn’t handle a pass from right-back Sofia Huerta which found her inside the penalty area, allowing Sheridan to smother the ball. Smith also missed in the second half from an open net, after taking an excellent through ball from Morgan, before the latter gave his side the lead.
Morgan later praised Smith, compatriot Trinity Rodman and other relatively inexperienced international teammates for “making a name for themselves at such a young age”. She added that their run through the tournament in Mexico, for which Morgan earned MVP honors after leveling the overall lead with three goals, would “go far” in major events to come over the next two years.
After coach Vlatko Andonovski decided to go with a mix of youth and experience for the tournament, only five players who started against Canada in the Olympic semi-finals – goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, defender Becky Sauerbrunn, Morgan and midfielders Lindsey Horan and Lavelle – returned to the starting lineup on Monday.
Canada will wait until September 2023, when they have another shot at securing an Olympic berth in a playoff game against Jamaica, who beat Costa Rica in the Concacaf W Championship third-place game earlier on Monday. With victories earlier in this tournament, Team USA clinched a spot for the 2023 World Cup, along with Canada, Jamaica and Costa Rica.
Since women’s soccer became part of the Olympic program in 1996, the United States has appeared in all seven Summer Games and won six gold medals, totaling four gold medals, the most recent in 2012, plus one more silver and the bronze medal of 2021.