Morgan and Co. had nothing to show for a mostly dominant performance Monday until midfielder Rose Lavelle was tripped up after dribbling the ball into the penalty area in the 76th minute. The 33-year-old Morgan, the leading scorer in the National Women’s Soccer League, converted the penalty kick in the 78th for her 118th goal in international play.
“It just always feels good to be called a champion, and so this game means a lot to us,” Morgan said on Paramount Plus after the game. She added that Canada “gave us a run for our money” but she and her teammates could “feel good about our performance.”
Morgan also acknowledged that her side engaged in a bit of gamesmanship just before her penalty kick, when midfielder Lindsey Horan first went to the spot before ceding the attempt. Morgan then took the ball and beat Canada goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, a teammate of hers on the NWSL’s San Diego Wave.
Canada’s win at the Tokyo Olympics was its first in 20 years against the two-time reigning World Cup champion. Canada went on to defeat Sweden for its first Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer; the Americans topped Australia for bronze.
Since then, the top-ranked Americans have gone 15-0-3, with an 11-match winning streak that includes a 3-0 victory over Costa Rica in a semifinal Thursday. Canada reached Monday’s final by topping Jamaica, 3-0. The Americans’ win Monday improved their record against sixth-ranked Canada to 52-4-7.
During a scoreless first half, the Americans generated chances early and late but couldn’t get an authoritative final touch. Mallory Pugh twice forced Sheridan into difficult saves, but the 24-year-old forward also had a bad miss on an open shot in the penalty area. Later in the half, forward Sophia Smith couldn’t handle a feed from right back Sofia Huerta that found her inside the six-yard box, allowing Sheridan to smother the ball. Smith also had a miss in the second half on an open net, after taking an excellent through ball from Morgan, before the latter put their team ahead.
Morgan subsequently praised Smith, fellow forward Trinity Rodman and other teammates relatively inexperienced on the international stage for “making a name for themselves at such a young age.” She added that their journey through the tournament in Mexico, for which Morgan won best player honors after tying for the lead with three goals, would “go a long way” in the 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, just five players who started against Canada in the Olympic semifinals — goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, defender Becky Sauerbrunn, Morgan and midfielders Horan and Lavelle — returned to the starting lineup Monday.
Canada will wait for September 2023, when it gets another chance at clinching an Olympic berth in a playoff match against Jamaica, which defeated Costa Rica in the Concacaf W Championship’s third-place game earlier Monday. With victories earlier in this tournament, the U.S. squad clinched a berth in the 2023 World Cup, as did Canada, Jamaica and Costa Rica.
Since women’s soccer became part of the Olympic program in 1996, the U.S. squad has been to all seven Summer Games and medaled in six of them, totaling four golds, most recently in 2012, plus a silver and the 2020 bronze.