The USA prepare for the unexpected ahead of the World Cup qualifiers

07/10/2019; New York, New York, United States; United States women’s soccer team forward Megan Rapinoe (15) celebrates with the trophy and her teammates at New York City Hall after the confetti parade for the United States women’s soccer team at Heroes’ Canyon in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

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NEW YORK, July 1 (Reuters) – Back-to-back women’s world champions United States take their first step towards the 2023 tournament on Monday, playing Haiti in the opener of the group stage of the CONCACAF W Championship.

At the eight-team tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, the top four will qualify for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and the overall winner for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Mexico and Jamaica also play in Group A, while Olympic champions Canada play in Group B against Costa Rica, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago.

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Seeking revenge after a disappointing bronze result at last year’s Tokyo Games, the four-time world champions are proud of their all-time favourites.

Last month, the USA picked a mix of experienced talent – including 2019 Ballon d’Or winner Megan Rapinoe, forward Alex Morgan and captain Becky Sauerbrunn – and relative newcomers like Trinity Rodman, National Women’s Soccer League Rookie of the Year, in their squad.

“I’m still getting to know a few players,” Morgan told reporters after the USA beat Colombia 2-0 in the second of two friendlies on Tuesday. “They all bring something different.”

The USA won thanks to an own goal from Colombia left-back Manuela Vanegas, with American defender Kelley O’Hara extending the advantage in the second half.

“We know we’re going to face all sorts of things in qualifying,” said Morgan. “We must expect the unexpected.”

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski said the performance wasn’t the best USA had to offer.

“It was physically demanding and very close and it’s good for us to prepare for it,” he told reporters.

“The biggest realization was that we have a very good team and we found a way to score goals in different ways and although today I would say it wasn’t our best performance, we still managed to score goals and come off the field successfully.”

The CONCACAF W Championship begins on Monday.

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Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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