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USWNT lurches past Mexico to close Concacaf W Championship group play

United States 1, Mexico 0

Midfielder Kristie Mewis scores in the 89th minute. (Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

The World Cup berth was secure, a semifinal slot sealed and first place in the group all but clinched, but for the U.S. women’s national team Monday, there was still the matter of facing the host team, Mexico, in the Concacaf W Championship.

Billed before the tournament as a showdown between the two-time defending world champions and a regional upstart, the match lost its bite after Mexico dropped its first two games last week.

The Americans, though, struggled all night, even after Mexico received a red card in the second half. Finally, in the 89th minute, substitute Kristie Mewis scored from close range for a 1-0 victory at Estadio Universitario in Monterrey.

Mewis knocked in the ball after Itzel González made a spectacular reflex save on Emily Sonnett’s header.

The Americans (3-0-0) will face Costa Rica (2-1-0) in the first semifinal Thursday, followed by Canada (3-0-0) vs. Jamaica (2-1-0). All four have qualified for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Next Monday’s final will determine the region’s first berth in the 2024 Paris Olympics. The second slot will be decided next year in a two-leg playoff between the second- and third-place finishers in the W Championship.

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The Americans posted their third consecutive shutout, and Mexico (0-3-0) finished a disappointing tournament without a goal.

The all-time series remains terribly lopsided (40-1-1), and since losing to host Mexico at the 2011 World Cup qualifying tournament, the Americans have won 16 in a row by a 65-4 margin. This one, though, was arduous.

Mexico was determined to salvage some pride in front of its supporters, while the United States, despite abundant possession, was sluggish in the run of play and ineffective on set pieces.

In the first half, Margaret Purce (Silver Spring) hit the post with an angled, five-yard attempt and, late in the half, she made a 60-yard run to set up Lindsey Horan for a weak bid from 12 yards.

Despite few forays into the U.S. end, Mexico played hard and defended well, gaining belief as the match transpired.

With no breakthroughs after intermission, U.S. Coach Vlatko Andonovski turned to four subs in the 64th minute, including Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle. Rapinoe had missed Thursday’s 5-0 victory over Jamaica to travel to Washington to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House.

The Americans gained an advantage in the 73rd minute when Lizbeth Ovalle was red-carded for a dangerous tackle on Lavelle.

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On her last activity before being replaced, Alex Morgan almost broke the deadlock by flicking Rapinoe’s corner kick narrowly wide of the far post.

Then came the breakthrough. Ashley Sanchez slipped the ball back to Morgan’s replacement, Taylor Kornieck, who lifted the ball to Sonnett for the header. González made the stop, but Mewis cleaned up the rebound for her seventh international goal.

Notes: Washington Spirit striker Ashley Hatch was dropped from the U.S. roster because of a muscle strain in her left leg. She was scheduled to return to the D.C. area for treatment. Portland Thorns midfielder Sam Coffey, who trained with the U.S. team before the tournament, was recalled. Teams are allowed to make roster changes because of injury after the group stage. ...

Left back Emily Fox (coronavirus protocol) wasn’t available. The Ashburn native had started the first two matches. ...

Panama (1-2-0) and Haiti (1-2-0) finished third in their groups and qualified for a World Cup playoff tournament in New Zealand early next year. Ten teams will vie for the last three slots.