Erin McLeod

Sydney Leroux does it again as US Women grind out 1-0 win over Canada

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Sydney Leroux continues to infuriate her country of birth.

The Canadian-born 23-year-old scored against the US neighbors as the USWNT defeated Canada 1-0 to extended their home winning streak to 78 matches, dating back to 2004. They haven’t lost since 2012, running their streak to 40 games.

A gritty performance in Frisco, Texas was rewarded in the 77th minute when an off-balance Leroux touched home the winner after Becky Sauerbrunn did most of the work.

Sauerbrunn made a run into the box and found Christen Press, who played a perfect one-two back to Sauerbrunn who sent the ball across the face of goal.  Leroux was falling backwards, but managed to maintain her balance and get her leg to the bouncing ball to touch it past goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who was out of position.

“That’s kind of how we play, and we push to the very last second. I’m just happy that we came out on top of the game 1-0. It was a good game. It was physical and I’m glad we came out on top,” Leroux said.

It was a just reward for an otherwise wasteful United States, who capped a few good chances – mostly in the first half – with weak shots on Canada’s net.

There was one other good chance for the United States earlier in the match, but defender Whitney Engen had a goal correctly ruled out for offsides, despite the close nature of the call.  Moments later Canada’s Josée Bélanger should have scored but instead dragged a shot across the face of the net.

The visitors had one good chance to draw back level following Leroux’s goal, a late one in the 87th minute, but Jonelle Filigno shot directly at Hope Solo who made a comfortable save.

Despite the struggles at the attack, the US defense was as strong as ever, showing their .67 goals-per-match mark from 2013 was no fluke.  Canada barely had a sniff on net, with build-up play often halted in the middle third.

The start is a promising one as the Americans look to bring their strong 2013 with them into CONCACAF qualifying for the 2015 World Cup, which will be hosted by Canada.

United States deny Canada’s redemption, win 3-0 in Toronto

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The much-hyped rematch of last summer’s Olympic semifinal played out with few of Manchester’s fireworks, with a late brace from Alex Morgan lifting the United States to a 3-0 victory over Canada in Toronto.

Played in front of a near-sell out crowd at BMO Field, the match was the second of a men’s-women’s set celebrating the 100th anniversary of U.S. Soccer. After the U.S. men defeating Germany earlier in Washington, D.C., the States’ women’s team completed the program’s centennial sweep, downing a rival that hasn’t beaten the U.S. since 2001.

It was a match that’d been widely been billed as a chance for Canadian revenge – a rematch of last summer’s meeting in Manchester, England, where the U.S. controversially defeated Canada in the Olympics’ semifinal. Various officiating issues before a 123rd minute winner from Morgan created a sense of anticipation ahead of Sunday’s match in Toronto, the nations’ first game since their classic at Old Trafford.

Sunday’s start failed to match the hype, but when the U.S. finally broke through in the 70th minute, the onslaught started. Morgan started the scoring by finishing from left of goal from 12 yards out. Two minutes later, Morgan doubled the U.S.’s lead, with Sydney Leroux closing the U.S.’s account in the 93rd minute.

The first half was defined by the teams’ combative play through midfield, conflict resulting in a lack of scoring chances for each side. Speculative forays toward opposing penalty areas were cut out before becoming chances, with Canada’s midfield able to strangle the U.S.’s talented attack.

Despite that slight advantage, the hosts finished the half without a shot, let alone a chance that tested Nicole Barnhart. The U.S.’s numbers looked better – three shots, two of which tested Erin McLeod – but without creating a clear chance on goal, the visitors were rightly taken into halftime scoreless. They didn’t register their first shot until minute 28.

If anything, it was Canada that came closer to the first goal, with Christine Sinclair blowing past left back Crystal Dunn  in the 42nd minute to get onto a ball through the right channel. Sinclair was momentarily alone approaching the byline before Barnhart charged out, smothered any chance Sinclair had to play back across goal, leaving the Canadians with what became an ineffectual corner.

The second half saw the U.S.’s chances improve. In the 53rd minute, a defense-splitting pass from Tobin Heath nearly put Morgan in on goal, with a lunging tackle from 17-year-old Kadeisha Buchanan all that prevented the U.S. forward from getting a shot off on McLeod. Two minutes later, Abby Wambach redirected a corner kick toward goal, but a block from Buchanan again prevented the U.S. from opening the scoring.

In the 70th minute, the U.S. finally broke through. A quick transition out of midfield saw Wambach play a ball from the left to Morgan, approaching the left side of the Canadian area. After dribbling around a twisted Emily Zurrer, Morgan slid a left-footed finish inside the far post, giving the U.S. 1-0 lead.

Two minutes later, a nearly identical finish doubled the States’ lead. After Heath forced a turnover, the U.S. midfielder quickly found Morgan behind the defense on the left. Another left-footed finish into the far side netting gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead before Canada had even registered a shot.

In stoppage time, former Canadian youth star Leroux completed the scoring, slotting home the States’ third goal. The Boston Breakers’ attacker celebrated amid booing fans, raising the U.S.’s centennial crest before holding a finger to her lips, shushing the derisive crowd.

The celebration was a point of controversy post-match, eliciting a label of “classless” from the commentating team on Canadian broadcaster Sportsnet. Leroux, a target of derision from Canadian fans since declaring for the U.S. in 2011, was booed after being brought on in the 74th minute. Scattered boos also accompanied her subsequent touches, with the relationship between Leroux and her country of birth becoming even more complicated after a controversial 20 minutes.