After losing their opening game to Sweden, the USWNT managed to get their Olympic quest for gold back on track. They qualified second in their group behind Sweden after thrashing New Zealand and then drawing 0-0 with Australia.
They then produced their best performance of the tournament, earning a 2-2 draw with the in-form European Champions, the Netherlands, and defeating them 4-2 on penalties,with Megan Rapinoe scoring the decisive spot kick.
However, heading into their semi-final with Canada, the USWNT had won just once at the tournament and their poor form didn’t improve any in the semifinal as a second half penalty, awarded by VAR, gave Canada the chance to snatch victory.
And it was a chance that the Canadians took, with Jessie Fleming taking the responsibility and scoring the crucial spot kick.
First Win In 20 Years
It was Canada’s first win over the US women’s national team for over 20 years and the victory puts them into their first ever Gold Medal game in the Olympics.
The victory was just the fourth time Canada has earned a win over the United States in 62 meetings between the teams.
The United States will play in the bronze medal match on Thursday but they may be without their first choice goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
The unfortunate US number 1 was substituted in the 30th minute of the semifinal after sustaining a knee injury after a collision with team mate Julie Ertz.
Second Half Performance Unrewarded
After a cagey and somewhat unspectacular first half, which Canada probably just shaded, the U.S. team played better in the second period, despite conceding the crucial goal.
Before Canada struck, their keeper Stephanie Labbe was forced to make two excellent saves, one from Carli Lloyd and the other from Julie Ertz.
However on 75 minutes, Canada were awarded a penalty when Tierna Davidson was adjudged to have fouled Deanne Rose in the penalty area, which the referee initially missed, but which was later confirmed by the VAR official.
After Fleming scored the resulting kick, the U.S. pressed hard to equalise and came closest when Carli Lloyd hit the cross bar. However, the Canadians held on to record a gritty win over their North American neighbors.
They go forward to face Sweden in the final, while the U.S. face Australia once again in the third-place match.
Andonovski Under Pressure After Poor Olympic Showing
USWNT manager Vlatko Andonovski is now under increasing pressure in his role after the team’s relatively poor showing at the Olympics this year.
Having won the FIFA Women’s World Cup back in 2019 to make up for their Rio Olympics disappointment, when they went out in the quarterfinals to Sweden, the team headed to Tokyo on the back of a 44-game unbeaten run.
That came to an end abruptly against Sweden but even having made it to the semifinals, the level of performance of the team has been well below the standards expected of the US Women’s team.
Just one win from the five games they played is nowhere near good enough and part of the blame for that has been laid at the door of Andonovski and the tactics he employed throughout the tournament.
Megan Rapinoe, speaking after the defeat in the semi-final, cautiously wondered if Andonovski’s constant rotation of players, particularly in attack, played a part in the team’s performance.
“I feel like we haven’t had our joy a little bit,” said Rapinoe.
“It hasn’t flowed for us. It hasn’t been easy. We tried to find it. It’s not for lack of effort. It just didn’t click for us. I don’t know it its roster rotation but our roster’s deep as hell. We just didn’t have that juice we normally do.”
“Not even close to our best performances that I’ve seen over the years or even under Vlatko this year. We didn’t expect it to be easy. It’s all the best teams in the world and everything is on the line. We couldn’t unlock it.” She concluded.
Whatever the case and even if the USWNT do come home with a bronze medal, Andonovski has some tough questions to answer as his team failed to perform once again on one of the biggest stages.
And with the U.S Men’s Team winning the Gold Cup with an effective B-Team, that relatively poor performance has been put into sharp focus.