Lilly's overtime penalty decides Gold Cup
CARSON, Calif. -- Tied 1-1 with time running out in overtime, the United States thought it would need to beat Canada with penalty kicks to take the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Turned out it needed just one.
Kristine Lilly scored on a penalty kick late in overtime to give the United States a 2-1 victory over Canada on Sunday night in the Gold Cup championship game.
Robyn Gayle fouled Carli Lloyd with an elbow just a few feet in front of the goal in injury time in the second overtime, and Lilly -- the tournament MVP -- sent the penalty kick sailing to the left of goalkeeper Erin McLeod.
Lilly said she was "too tired to be nervous" as she stood to take the kick.
"I thought, either way we're going to PKs," she said. "It'll either be five or one."
Both teams had already qualified for the 2007 World Cup in China by making the final.
The United States solidified its position as one of the favorites for the World Cup and extended its unbeaten streak to a team-record 32 games. All but two of those games were under coach Greg Ryan.
"I think about eight teams can win the World Cup, and based on playing all the other teams I think we're the best team in the world right now," Ryan said. "They're going to have to find a way to knock us off."
The United States, 27-0-5 during the run, broke a national record when it ran the streak to 31 with a 2-0 victory over Mexico on Wednesday in the semifinals, the game that earned the team its World Cup berth.
The Americans have won the World Cup twice, beating Norway 2-1 in China in 1991, then defeating China on penalty kicks after a scoreless tie at the Rose Bowl in 1999.
The U.S. women finished third in 2003, when eventual champion Germany beat them 3-0 in the semifinals. The United States defeated Canada 3-1 in that third-place game.
The 35-year-old Lilly played on all of those U.S. teams. She said the Gold Cup provided a perfect World Cup warmup for her younger teammates, some of whom call her "grandma."
"This is the kind of atmosphere that the World Cup's going to hold, so it's good for these players to experience it now," she said.
The United States has won all three of the CONCACAF Gold Cups, winning the inaugural edition in 2000 and winning it again in 2002.
McLeod had three huge second-half saves for Canada to help force overtime.
She dove to her left for her first save of the game in the 74th minute to stop a header from Marci Miller, then saved two shots in a 1-on-1 duel with Natasha Kai in the 78th minute.
Canada's Randee Hermus tied it at 1 just before halftime with an unassisted goal. A free kick from Melanie Booth caromed off Miller's head, and Hermus scored from 10 yards.
Leslie Osborne opened the scoring for the United States in the sixth minute when Martina Franko failed to clear the ball with a header. Osborne booted it just to the left of a lunging McLeod from 15 yards out for her second career goal for the national team.
Canadian coach Even Pellerud was ejected in the 86th minute after arguing with officials for much of the game.
Canada beat Jamaica 4-0 on Wednesday to reach the final and qualify for the World Cup.
Mexico beat Japan 3-0 earlier Sunday in the third-place game and will play two games against Japan for a World Cup berth.