The 2018 Concacaf Women’s Champions saw the U.S. Women’s National Team accomplish its most pressing missions, and doing so in strong fashion. The quadrennial World Cup qualifying, which doubles as the regional championship, saw the USWNT’s officially qualify for next year’s World Cup in France. The Americans also defended their North American title in a two-week span that saw impressive displays on an individual and collective basis.
Much of it came as little surprise, since qualifying for the World Cup meant facing teams that are still clearly inferior to the reigning world champions. Even then, the USWNT was relentless in its pursuit of a spot in France, and eventually the title, outscoring opponents 26 to zero in the process. Each of the five matches the team played saw them score in the opening 10 minutes, putting pressure on opponents until the match was fully out of reach.
Ultimately, the tournament was a display of the USWNT’s offensive excellence, with Alex Morgan picking up the Golden Ball award with seven goals. That also meant that the USWNT’s defense did not face a lot of challenges, but did pass the tests that they needed to. Everyone essentially did was was asked of them, including head coach Jill Ellis, who managed to pick out as close to a first-choice starting lineup as she could considering injuries.
Here’s a closer look at how each member of the 20 player squad fared during the Concacaf Women’s Championship:
ALYSSA NAEHER (B+)
Playing all but the second game of the group stage, Naeher did not have a lot to do for a majority of the tournament. That even includes the championship match against rivals Canada, in which the goalkeeper had just one save to make. Still, she was as stable and secure an option at the back as she has been in her time with the national team.
ASHLYN HARRIS (B+)
Ellis elected to give Harris the second group stage match against Panama, which saw the USWNT beat them 5-0. There was a stretch of time in the second half when Panama managed some meaningful possession and had a shot that forced Harris into a save after being inactive for around 60 minutes. Other than that, she was pretty inactive in her time on the pitch during the tournament.
KELLEY O’HARA (A-)
The versatile player played all of her minutes at right back, and has seemingly become Ellis’s first choice in the position. O’Hara showcased her usual habits of attacking as one of the team’s fullbacks, while also making sure the opposition never had the ability to use her flank as a channel to make their mark.
EMILY SONNETT (B)
Playing the entirety of the Panama match and getting about a half hour each in the tournament opener against Mexico and the semifinal match against Jamaica, Sonnett brought what she usually does for the national team. As a more defensively minded player, she showed her stability in the back in her time as the team’s second-choice right back with little problem.
ABBY DAHLKEMPER (B+)
Playing all but the final 13 minutes of the game against Panama, the centerback had a drama-free tournament, partly because her teammates ahead of her were incredibly effective in keeping out the teams they faced. She did manage show off her attacking flair in the semifinal against Jamaica, playing a perfect long ball from inside the team’s half for Megan Rapinoe, who scored from close range.
BECKY SAUERBRUNN (B+)
Like Dahlkemper and the goalkeepers, she did not have a lot to do defensively during the tournament. That being the case, the team’s long-time center back took the opportunity to go forward and contribute to the team’s attack in early matches, coming close to scoring her first career international goal.
HAILIE MACE (B+)
The UCLA player got her first international start in the team’s match against Panama, which was her only game of the tournament. Her defensive work was limited, but she got to show off her versatility by playing up top with Carli Lloyd in the early minutes of that match, and did well to startle the Panamanian defense in those opening sequences.
CRYSTAL DUNN (A+)
Cementing herself as the team’s first choice at left back, Dunn was able to completely dominate the left flank of the field in the four matches she played. Capably defending against the various opponents, Dunn was also able to frequently get forward and assist her team in attack, picking up a goal against Trinidad & Tobago in the process.
CASEY SHORT (B+)
The defender got 90 minutes at left back against Panama, and like her fellow defenders, ended up without a lot of work to do. Like Sonnett, she stayed close to home against an opponent that allowed the USWNT attack to be busy, doing what was asked of her defensively.
JULIE ERTZ (A+)
Walking away as the tournament’s Golden Ball winner, every single opponent had difficulty getting past the defensive midfielder. Effectively doing the defensive responsibilities, she also easily got the team started in attack and got on the scoresheet herself. Once again, she got involved on set pieces and used her head to score and ended the tournament with two goals and an all-around impressive showing.
LINDSEY HORAN (A+)
Horan’s stellar career year continued at the tournament, as she fully established herself as the box-to-box midfielder that balances out the team’s midfield perfectly. Making her presence known in each of the matches she played, and frequently got forward. Instrumental in several of her teammates’ goals over the two-week period, recording five assists. She even got to show off her own habit of scoring from range, doing so against Trinidad & Tobago.
SAMANTHA MEWIS (B+)
The midfielder played about 120 minutes during the tournament, including a 90 minute shift against Panama, and showcased her usual ability to control midfield with a long stretch of minutes. Part of a midfield three that allowed Panama few opportunities to get involved, and even got forward and scored the game’s first goal.
MORGAN BRIAN (B)
Playing 90 minutes against Panama and a half against Jamaica, the midfielder did well to keep the USWNT midfield fully in charge. Electing not to get too far forward in her time on the pitch, it was not an eventful tournament for Brian, but she remained consistent in her time on the pitch.
ROSE LAVELLE (A+)
The midfielder’s return from injury over the last few months has seen her become an instant contributor to the USWNT attack, and this tournament may have solidified her spot in the starting lineup. Perhaps the team’s best pure attacking midfielder, Lavelle was constantly creating opportunities for her teammates and giving opposing defenses difficulty. She notched an assist and three goals during the course of the tournament as she continues to impress in a national team jersey.
TOBIN HEATH (A)
As Ellis’s first choice on the right side of the attack, Heath had no problem imposing herself on each defense she encountered. Always finding a way to get near goal and so with the flair she is well known for, Heath picked up four goals and two assists during the last two weeks.
MALLORY PUGH (B)
Playing mostly as a substitute minus a 90 minute shift against Panama, Pugh was not as influential as she has been in matches past. She ended the tournament without a goal or an assist, but that was not for a lack of trying, as she was a crucial part of the attack in the USWNT’s 5-0 thumping of Panama in the group stage.
ALEX MORGAN (A+)
The tournament’s Golden Boot winner with seven goals, Morgan continues on her strong run of form that has lasted for more than a year. She scored in each of the four games she played, and could have added a few more if not for unlucky strikes off the posts, shots that went just wide, and some important saves made by opposing goalkeepers. Morgan continues to prove that she is a forward who can do many things up front, including aiding her teammates in attack, making her a perfect forward to show off the U.S. team’s offensive depth.
CARLI LLOYD (B-)
Lloyd’s best performance during the tournament came in her 90 minutes against Panama, scoring a hattrick as the team enjoyed another victory. She continues to be used as a super sub of sorts when she is not playing in the place of Morgan against inferior opponents, but she has still to prove whether or not she can be truly productive in that role.
MEGAN RAPINOE (A+)
Rapinoe enjoyed a prolific tournament that saw her involved in many of the USWNT’s chances. From her mastery of set pieces to her instinct for goal, Rapinoe was hard to miss as the USWNT remained in the attack for almost the entirety of the tournament. The Seattle Reign player ended the tournament with three goals and three assists.
CHRISTEN PRESS (B+)
Press played 90 minutes against Panama and 44 minutes against Jamaica, and was effective on the left side of the front three. She recorded a goal in the process, while always remaining tricky to defend against for the players she played against.