Waterlogged pitch causes controversy as US women’s team beats Canada in penalty shootout to reach W Gold Cup final

Wet conditions were the main talking point during the US women’s soccer team’s penalty shootout victory over Canada in the W Gold Cup semifinals on Wednesday.

The game was played on a heavily waterlogged pitch at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego after torrential rain fell in the build up, with huge sections of standing water affecting the path of the ball and players’ ability to run at pace with it at their feet.

Following the snowy conditions Real Salt Lake and LAFC played in over the weekend, the wet field in San Diego was once again a point of controversy.

The tricky conditions were highlighted in the 11th minute when US forward Trinity Rodman raced through on goal with only the keeper to beat, only for the ball to stop in the water and halt any goalscoring opportunity.

Just minutes later, the US was a beneficiary of the conditions, when Canada defender Vanessa Gilles’ pass to goalkeeper Kaelin Sheridan stopped dramatically in the puddles, allowing Jaedyn Shaw to give the US the lead.

Alex Morgan of the US collides with Canada's Vanessa Gilles. - Gregory Bull/AP
Alex Morgan of the US collides with Canada's Vanessa Gilles. - Gregory Bull/AP

Throughout the encounter, players consistently struggled to come to terms with the conditions, with the ball holding up in the water and making it almost impossible to sustain any sense of flow to the game.

Former US midfielder Julie Foudy heavily criticized the decision for the game to go ahead on social media, calling it “insane.”

“Why isn’t CONCACAF calling this match. Play it (tomorrow). Someone is going to get hurt,” the two-time World Cup winner said on X – formerly known as Twitter – also using the hashtag ‘waterparkgame.’

After the game, Canada coach Bev Priestman echoed Foudy’s thoughts.

“It’s obvious that the game was unplayable,” Priestman said, per ESPN. “We put in a lot of work in a game plan, and within minute one, it’s thrown out the window.”

Priestman added: “I’m not going to make excuses as to was it fair, was it unfair. We played the game in front of us, both teams had to play on the conditions and it was who could adapt the most.”

In a statement to CNN, a Concacaf spokesperson said that it is “solely at the discretion of the referee as to whether the field is safe and playable.”

Shaw celebrates after scoring a goal against Canada. - Gregory Bull/AP
Shaw celebrates after scoring a goal against Canada. - Gregory Bull/AP

There was no shortage of action though in the game, with the teams level 2-2 after extra-time before the US won 3-1 on penalties.

Shaw opened the scoring, taking advantage of the watery conditions to slot home, becoming the first US women’s player ever to score in each of her first four starts. Jordyn Huitema leveled for Canada eight minutes from full-time to send the match to extra-time.

Sophia Smith gave the US its second lead of the game in extra-time, only for Adriana Leon to level once again, this time from the penalty spot, three minutes from the end to send the game to a shootout.

US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher proved to be the difference maker, saving three Canadian penalties and scoring her own to send her side into the final of the W Gold Cup where it will face Brazil, after the Seleção had beaten Mexico 3-0 in its semifinal.

The final will take place in Snapdragon Stadium on Sunday at 8:15 p.m. ET.

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