TAMPA, Fla. — Canada dug itself an early hole Sunday, conceding twice in the first 10 minutes en route to a 4-1 loss to the defending champion U.S. in the final of the CONCACAF Girls’ Under-15 Championship.
Alexandra Pfeiffer and Kennedy Fuller scored in the seventh and 10th minute, respectively, for the Americans in the 70-minute match. Abby Ballek and Ashlnn Puerta added insurance goals in the 67th minute and stoppage time (72nd minute) with Canada pressing for an equalizer.
Isabelle Chukwu replied for Canada in the 26th minute, recording the first goal conceded by the U.S. at the tournament.
It was 30 degrees Celsius, feeling like 34 C for the 11 a.m. local time kickoff at the Hillsborough County Sportsplex.
The U.S. went ahead in the seventh minute when Canada failed to clear the ball out of its own end with Pfeiffer beating Canadian 'keeper Noelle Henning with a left-footed shot from a tight angle.
Things went from bad to worse when Caroline Helfrich's cross hit Bianca Hanisch's arm, prompting Jamaican referee Neressa Goldson to point to the penalty spot. Fuller stepped up and beat Henning for a 2-0 lead in the 10th minute.
Henning made a diving one-handed save in the 18th minute to deny a long shot by Ainsley McCammon as the U.S. kept up the pressure.
Canada's Annabelle Chukwu, Isabelle's twin sister, had a half-chance in the 20th minute but was unable to get proper contact on the ball in front of goal, allowing U.S. 'keeper Molly Vapensky to clean up.
Isabelle Chukwu came on in the 25th minute after a cooling break and immediately had an impact, chipping a shot over Vapensky to cut the U.S lead to 2-1 in the 26th.
Henning made another fine save in the 44th minute, diving to parry away Fuller's redirection of a Katie Scott free kick.
Twin sisters Keelyn and Taegan Stewart came on for Canada in the second half.
Ballek made it 3-1 late in the game after a nice setup that saw an American teammate nutmeg a Canadian defender to put Ballek in the clear. Ballek took her time before slotting the ball between Henning's legs.
Puerta completed the scoring, tapping in a low cross from point-blank range.
The U.S. has won all three CONCACAF U-15 Championships it has participated in, also claiming the trophy in 2016 and 2018.
Canada won the inaugural event in 2014, was runner-up in 2016 (losing 2-0 to the Americans) and missed out on the semifinals in 2018.
Fuller won the tournament's Golden Ball Award as top player and Fair Play Award. Gabriella Quezada of the U.S. Virgin Islands won the Golden Boot Award as top scorer.
The U.S. won 1-0 Thursday when the two North American rivals met in the final Group B game, with both teams having already qualified for the semifinal by virtue of wins over Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The Americans outshot Canada 11-1 in that match, pulling ahead on a 17th-minute Fuller goal.
The U.S. defeated the Dominican Republic 6-0 in its semifinal. Canada reached the final by edging Mexico 6-5 in a penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw.
Earlier Sunday, Mexico blanked the Dominican Republic 5-0 in the third-place game.
Competing in the eight-team League A, the Canadians went into Sunday's final with a 3-1-0 record having outscored the opposition 9-2. The Americans were 4-0-0 with a 30-0 edge in goals.
Canada is coached by Jasmine Mander of Delta, B.C.
League B featured the next 12 ranked CONCACAF teams: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Nicaragua downed Aruba 3-1 to win the League B title Saturday.
The Americans defeating Mexico 3-0 to win the last edition of the CONCACAF U-15 Championship in 2018, in Bradenton, Fla. The 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Canada's record at the tournament is 16-4-2.
Of the 51 players who represented Canada at the three previous editions of the tournaments, 12 have already had call-ups to Canadian senior squad including Olympic champions Julia Grosso (2014), Jordyn Huitema (2014 and 2016), and Jayde Riviere (2016).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2022
The Canadian Press