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November 25, 2016
Late goals lift U.S over Mexico in quarterfinals of U-20 World Cup

Mallory Pugh helped the U.S. register a 2-1 comeback win over Mexico in the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.
Mallory Pugh helped the U.S. register a 2-1 comeback win over Mexico in the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea – The U.S. men might have experienced problems defeating their Mexico counterparts in a World Cup qualifying match Nov. 11, but don't tell that to the U.S. women's Under-20 side.

Second-half substitute Kelcie Hedge climaxed a late rally by scoring a goal two minutes into stoppage time to lift the Americans to a 2-1 comeback win over Mexico in the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Friday.

The USA scored twice in the final 13 minutes to secure a spot in the semifinals. The Americans will face Group A winner Korea DPR in the first semifinal at Sir John Guise Stadium Tuesday (1 a.m. ET on FS1 and NBC Universo). North Korea defeated Spain, 3-2 in extratime, in a wild back-and-forth match to earn its semifinal berth.

Mexico took the lead in the 64th minute on Maria Sanchez's well-struck free kick and then it was game on in search of an equalizer for the USA.Substitute Ally Watt tied the game in the 81st minute off a superb pass from Ashley Sanchez.

Sanchez who set up the game-winner three minutes into stoppage time with a brilliant dribble and pass from the right wing. She beat a defender around the corner, got to the end line and played a pass back on the ground that was dummied by Mallory Pugh and rolled to Hedge, who had entered the game in the 68th minute. Near the right edge of the six-yard box, Hedge spun her first-time shot off the foot of a defender from about eight yards out and it settled into the lower left corner.

“Mexico was everything we thought they would be and more,” U.S. head coach Michelle French said. “I said after the last game that our best soccer was in front of us, but today it wasn’t about the soccer, it was about the heart and determination and the USA mentality that we’ve seen over the years. The resolve this group of players played with, the belief that the players one through twenty-one had that we would come back and get a result was amazing. Looking in their eyes during the water break [at 75 minutes], they one hundred percent felt they could come back in the game, and that’s something that’s been built into our culture. What a crazy, crazy game and a really fun way to make the semifinal.”

The brisk wind blowing through Sir John Guise Stadium helped both countries, Mexico in the first half and the USA in the second, but stellar team defense for the Americans kept Mexico away from the goal for the most part, forcing numerous shots from distance while goalkeeper Casey Murphy had to make just two saves. The USA scored on both of its shots on goal during the match, but had quite a few dangerous forays down the flanks from Emily Fox, Pugh, Sanchez and outside backs Maddie Elliston and Ellie Jean, only to see Mexico repel numerous crosses. Mexico goalkeeper Esthefanny Barreras was also excellent in snagging a handful of dangerous crosses in traffic.

After Hedge scored to put the USA up 2-1, the referee blew the final whistle just over a minute later.

“They did exactly what we asked them to do,” French said of the two substitutes who scored. “We call our substitutes game-changers because that’s the expectations we have for them when they come in. We started Sabrina Flores who hasn’t played a minute (to that point in the tournament) and Ally Watt comes in and again changes the game by getting the goal. Keclie Hedge, again someone who hasn’t played at all, comes in and finds a way to get that ball in the back of the net. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The USA men dropped a 2-1 decision Columbus, Ohio in their opening game of the CONCACAF hexagonal earlier this month.
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