US shakes off shocking loss, advances to Women’s Gold Cup semis with a 3-0 win over Colombia

United States midfielder Lindsey Horan (10) celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick during the first half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup women's soccer tournament quarterfinal against Colombia, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

United States midfielder Lindsey Horan (10) celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick during the first half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup women’s soccer tournament quarterfinal against Colombia, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Six days after the United States got very publicly knocked down by Mexico, the Americans got back up and started swinging again — sometimes almost literally.

The U.S. had more than enough toughness and talent to win a chippy match with Colombia and to keep moving forward in the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup.

Jenna Nighswonger and Jaedyn Shaw scored in the first half, and the U.S. rebounded with a 3-0 victory on Sunday night to advance to the semifinals of this inaugural event.

Lindsey Horan also converted a penalty in the opening minutes for the Americans, who felt they firmly shook off the embarrassment of their 2-0 loss to Mexico last Monday in the final game of group play.

“We saw it as an opportunity,” goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher said. “Normally when you lose in a tournament, you don’t get the opportunity to come back immediately and right that wrong. … I think it was just a refocus. We all just kind of hit reset. Let’s learn from it, but move on.”

After a few days of training, the U.S. was back in dominant form against an impressive, combative Colombian team that reached the quarterfinals of last year’s World Cup. The teams racked up seven combined yellow cards, with Alex Morgan’s feisty exchanges in the box with Catalina Usme setting a physical tone that suited the Americans just fine.

“We kind of knew it was going to be like that,” Shaw said. “We knew it was going to be a battle, and we were up for the challenge.”

The U.S. will face Canada in the Gold Cup semifinals in San Diego on Wednesday. Mexico takes on Brazil in the other semifinal after its 3-2 quarterfinal win over Paraguay earlier Sunday at BMO Stadium.

The loss to Mexico highlighted the steady decline in results for this longtime world soccer power in the past few years, including a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics and a Round-of-16 exit from last year’s World Cup. But this victory showed the current Americans still have enough talent and athleticism to turn even a tough matchup into a comfortable win — particularly when their young stars have the chance to flourish.

Interim coach Twila Kilgore said the U.S. has plenty of experience in maintaining the steady focus needed to win tournaments, even if it hasn’t happened as much lately.

“We genuinely didn’t do anything different than we do every day, and that’s the key to being part of this program,” Kilgore said of the week’s preparation. “It was about regrouping from a tough moment and just identifying some things we have to fix. … It was a tough battle. Perhaps we could have scored a few more goals, but the job was to advance, and we did that. We’re ready to take a step down to San Diego and keep it moving.”

Shaw, the Americans’ 19-year-old emerging star, highlighted the first-half offensive attack. When she scored on a sharp pass from fellow youngster Trinity Rodman, she joined Shannon Boxx as the only players in U.S. history to score in each of their first three international starts.

“I just know if I put myself in places to score, my teammates are going to give me the opportunity,” Shaw said. “And that’s what happened.”

The U.S. hadn’t conceded a goal to a CONCACAF opponent in its previous 33 matches before Mexico scored twice, but Naeher and a defense led by Naomi Girma got the Americans back to clean sheets against Colombia, with Naeher posting her 43rd shutout during a decade on the U.S. team.

A loud crowd supported the U.S.’ efforts to get back on track in Angel City FC’s home stadium just south of downtown Los Angeles, and its team was awarded an early penalty when Jorelyn Carabali took down a sprinting Alex Morgan in the 10th minute. Horan stutter-stepped before burying it for her second penalty conversion of the Gold Cup.

Both teams had a noticeable edge in the first half, with Morgan and Maria Usme getting matching yellow cards for a scrap during positioning. Rodman got a another yellow a few minutes later for kicking at Daniela Arias in frustration over the Colombian defender’s cagey play.

Nighswonger boosted the lead to 2-0 in the 22nd minute with a strong strike resulting in the Southern California native’s second career international goal. The 23-year-old Gotham FC defender graduated from Huntington Beach High School.

Colombia increased its pressure, but Naeher made two impressive saves on shots by Real Madrid teenager Linda Caicedo.

The U.S. went up 3-0 in first-half injury time when Shaw banged home Rodman’s centering pass for her third goal of the tournament and fifth in eight career appearances. The Americans’ attack has been stronger in this tournament when the speedy, creative Shaw — who plays for San Diego’s NWSL team — is on the field.

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