For the United States, defeating any side from Mexico just once in any competition in soccer is an achievement. Doing it twice in the same tournament take sheer character luck, desire, commitment, and pure, hard work. USA Under-17 Women’s National Team manager B.J. Snow knew that this tournament would determine whether or not he would remain in charge of the next group of young college-bound athletes. And they all knew, heading on the flight to St. George’s, Grenada, that the road to Jordan and the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, went through El Tri.
The USWNT had been inconsistent in their performances at this tournament. They had won it all in 2008 and 2012, but in the years they did not, their form regressed and they failed to qualify for the U-17 Women’s World Cup. If the pattern was going to hold, this was going to be their year.
The United States got off to a flying start on Mar. 4 when they faced Jamaica, whose men’s senior national team embarrassed the States in their house at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Payback was due in the form of a 8-1 smashing. Frankie Tagliaferri scored a sombrero in the 72nd, 75th, 81st and 87th minutes of play. Scoring braces were Ashley Sanchez (34′, 56′) and Civana Kuhlmann (15′, 49′, more on her in a bit).
On Mar. 6, they faced their archrivals Mexico at the Grenada National Stadium. Sanchez took a shot after her looping chip proved all the difference in the 73rd minute, but she was able to finish the match as the States ran away 1-0 winners. With a semifinal spot secure, their attention turned to Costa Rica.
On Mar. 8, the USA were tested by the Young Ticas, but they were able to finish the job and deliver their second shutout of the tournament, a modest 2-0 result. Alexa Spaanstra (7′) and Sanchez (38′) were on the board for the States. That set the stage for a “win-and-you’re-in” game against Canada. Fortunately, even if the USA lost, they still would be able to qualify for the U-17 Women’s World Cup. However, they weren’t going to take any chances.
On March 11, five different goalscorers slammed the door shut on Canada in their 5-0 smashing at the Grenada Athletic Stadium. Spaanstra (33′), Jordan Canniff (45′ + 1′), Kuhlmann (54′), Sophia Smith (90′ + 1′) and Tagliaferri (90′ + 3′) put the cue in the qualification race for the States. Their final opponent was Mexico.
Just two days prior to the Ides of March, the USA got on the board first with a 43rd minute goal from Sanchez. Jacqueline Ovalle leveled the scores in the 69th minute for El Tri. But in the 86th minute, Kuhlmann’s one-timer in the box proved all the difference as the USA got revenge for Mexico defeating them in the CONCACAF Cup, 2-1. The silver lining for Canada was they they would defeat Haiti 4-2, meaning that all three North American sides would represent the region at the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan.