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From Defeat to Victory: Smith and Naeher's Huge Impacts in the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup

The United States Women’s National Team defeated Brazil 1-0 on March 10 at Snapdragon Stadium to become the first-ever CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup champions. Their win required hard work and perseverance to earn another championship for their nation.

It was a historic moment for the USWNT, who fell short in the 2023 Women’s World Cup when they were eliminated in the Round of 16. Some of the Gold Cup highlights include Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and Striker Sophia Smith, who were able to shine and earn redemption.

Courtesy of The Striker

In their World Cup game against Sweden, both Smith and Naeher had shortcomings that contributed to the team’s elimination. Smith missed her penalty kick by shooting the ball high above the goal. In Naeher’s case, she dove to block Sweden’s final penalty shot, tapping it off the crossbar. Goal-line technology ruled in Sweden’s favor, ending the USWNT’s World Cup run.

Courtesy of New York Post

After seven months of reflecting on the loss, both have learned to overcome the mental barrier by continuing to work hard and better their craft on and off the field. This Gold Cup was a testimonial to their hard work and determination to improve as players and demonstrate that they are more than the result of a single error.

In the semifinal game against Canada, Smith came on as a substitute and had a major impact in extra time. She penetrated Canada’s back line and found space behind the defense to score cleanly in the bottom right corner of the net, forcing a penalty shootout. Smith also took a penalty in the shootout, which she brushed straight into the bottom left corner of the goal. 

In an interview with The Athletic, she claimed that it was a big relief for her, “I haven’t scored in a while and have just been kind of on an emotional rollercoaster since the World Cup, so that was a big relief and it just felt really good.” The win against Canada and the team’s victory in securing the CONCACAF W Gold Cup title gave Smith a boost of confidence for the future.

Courtesy of Pro Soccer Wire

Naeher’s ability to keep the USA alive in the semifinal vs. Canada had a tremendous impact. She made two huge saves on the first two penalties by Canada, giving the US the lead. After her second save, she herself took a shot, scoring confidently in the far right corner of the goal.

Naeher made a third and final save on the last Canadian kick, securing the inaugural W Gold Cup win for the US. Naeher’s experience, tenacity, and headstrong mindset made her a stand-out player in this tournament. She was able to win the Golden Glove award for being the best goalkeeper in the field.

Courtesy of The18 on X (@the18soccer)

The USWNT may have suffered a significant loss in the 2023 World Cup, but they were able to recover and triumph again by competing brilliantly on the field to win the first-ever Gold Cup for women. Smith and Naeher's journeys to Gold Cup victory are made extra special by their personal circumstances and heroic moments in this tournament that elevated both their individual performances and the team as a whole.

Edited by: Emma Habel

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