USWNT 4 Argentina 0: Jaedyn Shaw scores brace, U.S. secures spot in W Gold Cup knockout round

By Meg Linehan, Melanei Anzidei and Steph Yang

On Friday, the U.S. women’s national team advanced into the knockout stage of the W Gold Cup thanks to a 4-0 win over Argentina in its second group stage match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Their final group stage test awaits against Mexico, who rolled to a dominant 8-0 victory over the Dominican Republic. With a seeding of the top eight teams determining quarterfinal match-ups, one final win — and goal differential — will be crucial for the U.S.

After an early scare from Argentina, thanks to a long-range effort from Orlando Pride’s Mariana Larroquette striking the crossbar, the U.S. responded quickly with a pair of goals from forward Jaedyn Shaw, then a goal in the run of play from Alex Morgan in the first half.

Argentina went down to ten players in the 75th minute when Miriam Mayorga received a second yellow card for a handball in the box. Lindsey Horan converted the penalty kick, given after video review, for the final goal of the night and the only one of the second half.

“It was fun. I think we enjoyed the ball,” Horan said after the game. “The first three goals, getting them early, set the tone for us.”

Once again, the U.S. didn’t get much of a defensive test beyond those first few looks from Argentina, but Friday’s 90 minutes provided another look at the USWNT, with a heavily rotated starting XI and a new formation.

Meg Linehan, Steph Yang and Melanie Anzidei analyze the match.

Jaedyn Shaw seizes the moment

Jaedyn Shaw had an extraordinary first half, scoring two razor-sharp goals. The first was a shot from a tough angle that slid in near post through the thinnest of margins after a quick and clever restart on a free kick. The second was a beauty of a volley, a confident side-footed shot in front of goal.

After the last U.S. game against the Dominican Republic, midfielder Midge Purce talked about how interim head coach Twila Kilgore wanted players to get more “easy” goals because the team was pressing hard and players were in key zones in front of goal. Shaw — and to a certain extent Alex Morgan, who got the start Friday — continued to execute that plan against Argentina, although they were pressing out of a less aggressive shape than against the Dominican Republic.

But after their early scare with Larroquette’s shot off the woodwork, it felt like the entire team buckled down and worked hard to win back balls and counter press to the point that they eventually pushed Argentina lower and lower. They didn’t have the same numbers in the box when they were playing out of the 3-2-4-1 formation, but there was a similar ethos of aggressively attacking the goal with their runs.

That seems to be what Kilgore (as an extension of future coach Emma Hayes) wants to become de rigueur, at least against teams that challenge in mid or low blocks. It’s a strategy that could pay off in buckets with an attacking pool of Shaw and Morgan alongside Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Olivia Moultrie, Rose Lavelle, Purce and the imminent return of Mal Swanson.

It’s also a very young pool of players, on average, which could help set up the USWNT very well for at least the next eight years, if not longer.

Argentina sees red and Horan scores a penalty

During two crucial minutes late in the second half, Argentina suffered what would be the final straw. After a nail-biting play where the U.S. failed to net a string of easy opportunities in the box, the chaos seemed to end with yet another crucial save by Argentinean goalkeeper Laurina Oliveros. The refs went to VAR, however, and decided Mayorga used her hand in the box, earning her a second yellow and expulsion from the game.

Horan clinically placed her shot over the diving Oliveros and scored in the 77th minute. It gave the U.S. a four-goal lead that a 10-player Argentina side was simply unable to catch up to.

Broadcast picture and audio issues

Between the screen going dark multiple times and multiple commentary and sound issues, Friday’s viewing experience was rough. Losing video for a few seconds here or there was somehow the least of the issues for Paramount+ (or perhaps via the source feed), but the audio truly struggled. The commentary went back and forth between two different pairs: Chris Wittyngham and Lori Lindsey, then Jamie Watson and Kacey White — at one point the stream featured both at the same time.

Maybe worst of all, the crowd noise and commentary weren’t synced on Paramount+ for a large portion of the first half, spoiling the action before viewers could actually watch it. In checking the ESPN Deportes feed, not only was it 20 seconds ahead of Paramount+ but seemed largely unaffected. ESPN’s feed occasionally glitched for a second or two, though hardly enough to distract viewers.

In the 38th minute, the commentary swapped back to Wittyngham and Lindsey for the second time. Upon return, Wittyngham apologized for “any technical difficulties.” All in all, a rough outing for English language viewers.

What’s next?

Monday, February 26: USWNT vs. Mexico, final W Gold Cup group stage, 7:15 p.m. PT/10:15 p.m. ET

Tonight’s match against Argentina offered the U.S. a chance for its young roster to gel, especially in the attack. Kilgore made 10 changes to the starting line up from the first game against Dominican Republic, midfielder Korbin Albert was the only continuity. Those changes eventually paid off as the U.S. officially secured a spot in the Gold Cup knockout round.

“I think we left a lot on the table tonight. I think that we still have a lot in us,” Kilgore said postgame. “We left some goals on the table, and we’re just working through those moments. but I have every confidence that will continue to grow as the tournament goes on and beyond.”

Next up, the U.S. faces Mexico in what will be one of the more anticipated matchups of the group stage. Horan went as far as calling it a “rivalry game.” Both teams dominated the Dominican Republic, outscoring the island nation by several goals. But only the U.S. was able to pierce through Argentina’s defensive end, scoring three goals in nine minutes. If both Mexico and the U.S. show up the way they did for Friday’s matchups, it will be a matter of which team makes the least mistakes. The U.S. would win the group with a draw, but goal differential matters and a win would help secure the top-seeded spot in the quarterfinals.

(Photo: Brad Smith/Getty Images for USSF)

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