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USWNT opens Olympic qualifying with win over Haiti

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The USWNT was rusty, that much was clear. Vlatko Andonovski still made sure they took care of business.

Four different goalscorers delivered a 4-0 victory over Haiti to begin CONCACAF Olympic qualification, putting the United States in front of Group A early. Lynn Williams picked up a goal and assist, proving useful on an otherwise sputtery evening for Vlatko Andonovski’s attack.

Just 78 seconds into the game, Williams charged down the right flank and crossed to Christen Press at the far post for the opening goal. Williams’ assist came without the use of her left shoe which she lost while holding off a defender for the bobbling ball.

Despite the early lead, the United States seemed somewhat sluggish as Haiti built themselves into the match. There were few chances on net after the opening goal through the half-hour mark.

Haiti nearly caught the U.S. napping on a corner as the ball found the back of the net on 20 minutes, but the goal was somehow ruled out. It appeared to be for offside, but since it’s impossible to be offside from a corner, there must have been another reason for the official ruling. Nonetheless, it was a clear sign for the USWNT that they needed to pick up the level of play.

The U.S. continued to struggle after halftime, creating very little in front of net. There was a half-chance for Lloyd near the penalty spot but a quality tackle by Kethna Louis put that to bed. Then finally they put the game to bed on a corner, not coincidentally coming just five minutes after Megan Rapinoe entered the fray. Rapinoe delivered a corner to the doorstep where Williams headed in well under pressure, moving her upper body away from goal against the motion of her lower body to reach the delivery.

Another Andonovski substitute paid dividends however as Lindsey Horan scored, again coming off a corner. They played it short and Horan headed from a significant distance out, the ball squirting past the goalkeeper Kerly Theus and Louis who tried to clear off the line. It was clear that Haiti had begun to tire and the USWNT was taking advantage. Up front, Carli Lloyd had a poor game, unable to get involved in attacking play, but she found the scoresheet in stoppage time, bagging a header off a Rapinoe cross in the 93rd minute to finish out the scoring.

Emily Sonnett replaced Kelley O’Hara with 10 minutes to go for Andonovski’s final change, and the USWNT saw the rest of the match out. They have two matches remaining before the knockout stage, set to take on Panama on Friday before the group stage finale against Costa Rica on February 3. The top two teams in the group reach the knockout phase with the semifinals to begin on February 7.

Mexico downs Haiti on late Jimenez penalty to reach Gold Cup finals

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Raul Jimenez bailed Mexico out again, bagging a 93rd minute penalty to send his country through to the Gold Cup finals past Haiti by a 1-0 score after extra time.

Mexico dominated the match but struggled in the final third, ripping 27 shots towards Johnny Placide but finding the target with just five. After regulation ended goalless, extra time began and the match was decided soon later. Mexico was bailed out by a soft but accurate whistle in stoppage time as Jimenez was clipped by a high boot from Herve Bazile at the top of the box after receiving the ball, and he was on hand to deliver the winning blow.

The goal was Jimenez’s fifth of the tournament, and he has arguably been their best and most consistent attacker. The rest of the strike force wilted in Glendale, with Monterrey attacker Rodolfo Pizarro proving a dangerous creative force but Jimenez and Andres Guardado were both denied by wonderful Placide saves and Jonathan dos Santos failed to put his first-half chance on frame.

While Mexico’s attack continued to sputter, the defense was comfortable for much of the game, holding Haiti to just one shot on target among its 11 total efforts. Assisting matters was the 69% possession Mexico maintained, keeping Haiti’s chances down further. They nearly had a dramatic late equalizer in the 119th minute, but Mikael Cantave cannoned his shot off the crossbar with Haiti’s last opportunity.

Mexico head coach Tata Martino was suspended for the match and forced to watch from a private box, banished from the pitch due to a pair of yellow cards picked up during the tournament, a new feature of the FIFA rules that state managers and coaches can pick up yellow and red cards like players and are thus subjected to the same suspension scenarios.

Haiti’s tournament comes to a bittersweet end after a fantastic showing, winning its group which also featured Costa Rica, coming back from two goals down to beat Canada in the knockout stage, and playing Mexico to the death. The finals appearance for Mexico will see them gun for a leading eighth Gold Cup title, with the United States currently sitting on six. They will face the winner of the second semifinal between the USMNT and Jamaica which takes place Wednesday evening.

LIVE – Mexico v. Haiti in Gold Cup semifinal

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This is one of the most lopsided semifinals in Gold Cup history, at least in terms of expectations.

Tata Martino’s 18th ranked Mexico meets tournament upstarts Haiti, some 83 positions lower on the FIFA charts.

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Elo Ratings have Haiti plenty higher after this tournament run, but the point remains the same: the Haitians would further stun the continent with a berth in the final at the expense of El Tri.

Mexico has won a record six Gold Cups. This is Haiti’s first semifinal since the tournament was still the CONCACAF Championship.

Must-See Goal: Haiti wins with Guerrier’s clever finish

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Haiti completed an historic comeback over Canada on Saturday evening to advance to the Gold Cup semifinals for the first time, and they have the clever control of Wilde-Donald Guerrier to thank.

Duckens Nazon, who had scored earlier, dribbled on goal before turning back. He caught the eye of Guerrier, who made a late darting run into the box. Nazon chipped the ball in and Guerrier took two touches, both in the air and the second to get around Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan, before finishing to make it 3-2.

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Watch the fantastic Gold Cup golazo below.

FOLLOW LIVE, Gold Cup: Mexico takes on Costa Rica in highly-anticipated quarterfinal

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The Mexican National Team may think that the hard work is over until the final if it beats Costa Rica, but that will mean El Tri hasn’t been paying attention to Haiti.

For the third time at the Gold Cup, Haiti came back from a deficit to win, this time overcoming a two-goal deficit to beat Canada, 3-2, in the quarterfinals opener in Houston, Texas. Now both Mexico and Costa Rica will have Haiti on their minds ahead of their matchup.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores ]

It’s been a strong Gold Cup for El Tri, starting with a 7-0 thrashing of Cuba and a 3-1 win over Cuba that featured Andres Guardado in vintage form. A 3-2 win over Martinique, which gave Mexico some problems late, could open the door for Costa Rica.

However, Los Ticos are coming in off a poor last game as well, in which they were outplayed and outrun by Haiti at Red Bull Arena, especially late in a 2-1 win for Haiti, in which it came back from being a goal down. Ultimately, this matchup is one that was expected in the semifinals, not as soon as the quarterfinals, meaning one of the favorites is heading home early.

Costa Rica is at the end of a cycle of star players while El Tri is trying out some young guns, like Edson Alvarez and LA Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna. It will be interesting to see if the veteran poise of Costa Rica overcomes the young talent of El Tri.

Hit the link above to follow along for the next few hours and check back on PST for a full roundup of Saturday’s action