The United States women’s soccer team advanced to the semifinals of the Olympic tournament with a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands on Wednesday, thanks to goalkeeping heroics by Alyssa Naeher.
The women’s us soccer team is the United States women’s soccer team. They are currently ranked 4th in the world and have won three World Cups.
The United States women’s national team advanced to the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics after defeating the Netherlands in a dramatic back-and-forth match that ended in penalty kicks.
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Whether the victory seems like the US overcame the odds depends on whether you were more focused on their No. 1 global rating or their poor performances in the tournament’s group stage. In any case, the Netherlands and the tournament’s leading scorer, Vivianne Miedema, are leaving, and the United States will now play Canada in the semifinals on Monday (4 a.m. ET).
Here are a few important points to remember:
The protagonist is Naeher.
The USWNT would not be in the last four of the Olympic women’s football competition if it weren’t for goalie Alyssa Naeher. Period.
The 33-year-old came off the bench in the 81st minute to save a shoddy Lieke Martens chance, but it was in the penalty shootout that Naeher truly shone. On the opening kick, she snatched a shot from the deadly Miedema out of the air, giving the USWNT the advantage, and then she stopped the Netherlands’ fourth attempt, from defender Aniek Nouwen, to seal the victory.
This may be Naeher’s hallmark game with the USWNT, the one that proved without a shadow of a doubt that she has earned her place as the team’s starting goalkeeper. After all, Naeher has frequently been overshadowed by Hope Solo and Briana Scurry, the two USWNT goalkeepers who came before her, each of whom has earned a position among the all-time great goalkeepers.
Pundits and fans may be hesitant to recognize Naeher as the successor to the post because of how she obtained the job in the first place. In the 2016 Olympics, Solo famously claimed Sweden played like “a bunch of cowards,” and after other off-the-field problems, U.S. Solo was booted from the squad when Soccer had had enough. Despite having just seven caps at the time, then-coach Jill Ellis immediately named Naeher as her successor, and Ellis never wavered from her decision, even though Naeher didn’t seem to be quite ready.
The Americans were tired by the conclusion of a tense match against the in-form Dutch, but progressed after a perfect penalty shootout performance. Getty Images/Francois Nel
Naeher is also a unique goalkeeper in comparison to her predecessors, since she does not match the mold of the traditional USWNT goalie. She has a more reserved, quiet demeanor off the field, and she doesn’t scream as much on the field. Naeher, on the other hand, has shown that she doesn’t have to be like everyone else, portraying a calm, cool assurance and poise and saving penalty kicks in both the World Cup and the Olympics to help the United States progress.
Megan Rapinoe stated, “Taking a penalty from them in the course of play was important, but then giving us two in the shootout just made it so easy for us.” “Particularly with them going first, it takes a lot of weight off the squad, and she’s just been incredible; she’s not a big talker, especially to you guys, but she’s been absolutely crucial for us.”
The USWNT seemed to be the USWNT once again.
If there was a flaw in the group stage, it was something intangible that couldn’t be quantified on a stat sheet: the USWNT didn’t look like itself. The players lacked confidence in themselves and played weak, nervous soccer. That wasn’t the case on Friday, even though the Americans didn’t provide a technical masterpiece.
The Americans quickly pushed and won the ball after the opening whistle, signaling that they weren’t going to make it easy for the Netherlands. Even though they seemed weary at times and struggled to handle the Netherlands’ many offensive threats, they kept coming back. After the game, Alex Morgan told reporters that she was certain the USWNT would have won without the need for penalty kicks if the game had gone on five minutes longer.
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The fact that the USWNT was ruled offside on four different opportunities against the Dutch, giving the Americans a total of nine would-be goals called back at these Olympics, may be cause for worry. That may signal that something is still wrong with the squad, but it’s also a sign of toughness and perseverance. Watch carefully if these guys start to get their timing down.
Morgan had previously said that the Olympics would really begin until the knockout stage started, and Rapinoe seemed to agree on Friday, portraying the USWNT’s return to form as unavoidable.
Rapinoe made reporters chuckle when she said, “Oh, you guys aren’t shocked, come on.” “We are who we are. This is the elimination round.”
Rapinoe went on to say: “Even when we’re playing like s—-, or when we’re playing fantastic, or when we’re in the middle, this team never truly quits. We’re still going to go out there and give it our all.”
“The only people I believe we’re sending a message to is ourselves,” Rose Lavelle said when asked whether the USWNT’s performance against the Netherlands conveyed a message.
In a game that may be her defining performance for the USWNT, Naeher was outstanding in saving three penalties in 120 minutes, including two in the shootout. ISI Photos/Getty Images/Brad Smith
After Williams’ breakthrough, Andonovski’s game management raises concerns.
The pairing of Carli Lloyd and Lynn Williams, the most and least experienced strikers on the squad, was a huge gamble for US coach Vlatko Andonovski up front. That seemed to be on purpose; Lloyd lacked speed, which Williams on the side might compensate for. Lloyd is a terrific presser, but he struggles to get behind back lines and stretch them, as well as track back defensively.
Williams was the driving force behind the USWNT’s offense against the Netherlands, chasing down balls and providing excellent service on many occasions. So it was only appropriate that she was involved in both USWNT goals. She first cut past a defender in the 28th minute and sent a cross into the box that Samantha Mewis just had to deflect with her head. Williams then volleyed a stray ball into the back of the goal less than two minutes later.
But her defensive work rate was just as crucial, which is why Andonovski substituted Williams with Christen Press in the 57th minute, which is a strange moment to make changes with the prospect of extra time approaching. Williams was the top player on the front line for the USWNT at the moment she was taken off the pitch. Andonovski then substituted Rapinoe with Tobin Heath, who was also causing problems for the Dutch defense.
Press and Rapinoe were tired before the game had reached the 90-minute mark, unable to assist the press or run back and defend, and the Netherlands became more threatening. As the game progressed into extra time, their legs became heavier as the Dutch outshot the Americans 21-16.
Afterward, Dutch manager Sarina Wiegman told Dutch media that the United States seemed to be falling behind.
“It was stated before the game that the US was in bad condition — and it turned out to be true,” she added. “Our ball circulation was a problem for them. It’s a huge disappointment that we didn’t win.”
“Whether we like it or not,” Andonovski said, “we have to think at least a bit about the next opponent, we have to think about penalty kicks, we have to think about various matchups on the field, or how we want to start the game vs how we want to end the game.”
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“The guys who came in, as I’m sure you saw, were the four players who actually took the penalty kicks, so it was part of the plan,” Andonovski said, “because if they began the game I didn’t know whether they were going to be able to play 120 minutes.”
Based on her performance on Friday, Williams could play a significant role in the semifinal versus Canada. She’s definitely making the most of her opportunities for a player who arrived to Japan as an alternate until a rule change placed her on the main squad.
Despite a significant offensive threat, the United States held on to beat a Dutch squad that will be unhappy not to have progressed. Getty Images via ANP Sport
A concerning tendency may be seen in the back line.
Andonovski had apparently made one of his most significant decisions in these Olympics when he chose not to start center-back Abby Dahlkemper against Australia. The United States’ coach said it was part of a rotation strategy, although Dahlkemper is a player who would usually be expected to start every game, as she did during the 2019 World Cup, despite the fact that the lineups were extensively changed between games.
It seemed as though Dahlkemper may have had a chance to recover.
She’s been a model of consistency for the Americans, offering the twin threat of being a strong defender as well as a great long-range ball distributor. However, she struggled in the USWNT’s opening two group games, failing to follow runners into the box and taking part of the responsibility for goals allowed to Sweden and New Zealand, and she suffered again against the Netherlands. Dahlkemper was the one who missed the first opportunity to pass to Miedema, the most clinical scorer in the whole Olympic competition — an unforgivable mistake considering that Miedema established a women’s Olympic record for the most goals scored in the group stage (eight).
Even though the squad has advanced to the semifinals, the USWNT back line has left so many holes, and one of the team’s go-to center-backs has been engaged on many occasions.
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