US advances to the knockout stage
By J.J. Pavlick
Entering the match, it was a given that the United States was going through given all they needed to advance was a tie. Morocco had a good debut on the world stage. It was the first time the African nation qualified for any Women’s World Cup at any level of play. Morocco had a strong showing in the 2022 African U-17 WWCQ tournament beating Benin, Niger, and Ghana. The Women’s national team also qualified for the Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia/ New Zealand. The U-17 Morocco team has one American on its roster, goalkeeper Ameerah Maamry from Louisville. She is teammates with U.S. midfielder Ella Sanchez at Racing Louisville FC Academy. Unfortunately, the young goalkeeper never saw a second of play for her team. Based on Morocco’s record in this World Cup, you would have to wonder why she was never called upon. The match was played in front of 3,578 fans at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa, India. The game was cooler, but the humidity was an issue once again along with the rain.
With Morocco needing a win in the match they bunkered in to start the match in hopes of frustrating the young American side. Unfortunately, the strategy did not pay off for Morocco as the U.S. continued to attack the Morocco side without an ounce of mercy. It took the U.S. 22’ to get their first shot and 24’ to net their first goal of the match. Gisele Thompson broke down the Moroccan side with a strong run up the right side of the pitch, she found Rebimbas making a run at the edge of the box, and from there it was downhill for the Moroccan defense as she broke them down and found Charlotte Kohler wide open 16-yards from goal with a well-executed pass that evaded five Morocco defenders. Kohler just unloaded on the pass and blasted it into the lower right corner with authority. Rebimbas was credited with the assist. With the heavy rain coming down the 1-0 lead was huge for the U.S., and it would continue to attack the backline of Morocco earning a corner kick in the 29’ and they didn’t miss goal number two by much. They hit the crossbar from 6 yards out and the ball went out of play. Then in stoppage time, the U.S. thought they drew a penalty kick on a handling call, but VAR ruled that Martinho was just offside by the narrowest of margins before the handling offense. The half would end shortly after, and the rain started to slow down.
The United States was halfway towards its goal of reaching the knockout stages, They poured it on in the second half replacing heavy rain with a barrage of goals on the Moroccan team. Amalia Villareal found her teammate Adames down the left wing, and she took off driving the back line close to the goal line, once the Moroccan team overcommitted, she slotted a pass to her wide-open teammate Samantha Smith who went into a slide tackle to knock the pass across the goal box into the back of the net. The goal was Smith’s 1st career goal at the national level. With the team now up 2-0 they went for the jugular and quickly scored their 3rd goal in the 73’ Charlotte Kohler scored her brace off a set up by her teammates. Ella Sanchez played the ball to a sprinting Villarreal in the penalty area, she cut the pass back against the Moroccan defensive pressure and then unleashed a crisp lateral pass to Kohler who buried the attempt via a one-touch shot into the right side of the goal. In the 81’ the U.S. would score its 4th and final goal of the match. This time Villarreal would help Smith get her brace and her 2nd goal at the International level. It all started with Sanchez picking off a poor Moroccan pass 30 yards from the goal, she found a sprinting Villarreal who took it to the 6-yard mark and then cut it back and found Smith yet again slide tackling in to drive the ball over the goal line from 4 yards out. In the 90’+1’ Emeri Adames broke in on goal from the top of the box, the Moroccan goalkeeper in a last-ditch effort charged out of goal and got just enough of Adames’s shot to keep it out of goal, the ball bounced toward the goal line where Adames ran it down and tried to center the ball to her teammate Villarreal at the back post. The defender just deflected the pass enough to give her team a chance to recover and clear the ball before Villarreal could get a shot off at the empty goal. The center referee would end the match shortly after the ball was cleared out of danger.
The United States will move on to face Nigeria in the knockout stage on Friday, October 21st at 7 a.m. ET. It was a great game for the entire team and Smith scored a brace in her first cap with the team.