The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) tied Colombia 2-2 on Tuesday, August 9, to win their Olympic group.
The USWNT had already clinched its spot in the quarterfinals after its 1-0 win against France on Saturday, but a tie or a win against Colombia would grant them an easier quarterfinal opponent.
Although the USWNT successfully finished group play at the top of their group, the draw against Colombia was a surprising result for most fans for a number of reasons.
For one, Colombia was supposed to be an easy team to beat. They dropped their first two Olympic matches and had not scored a goal all tournament, mathematically eliminating them from advancing out of the group stage prior to Tuesday night’s match.
For another, goalkeeper Hope Solo had prevented the USWNT from losing against France on Saturday afternoon, but she prevented the U.S. from winning against Colombia. Solo came up big for the U.S. with five crucial saves against France, and her superb goalkeeping compensated for the spotty defense of her back line. However, Colombia’s first goal of the night was the result of a goalkeeping flub that Solo only makes once in a blue moon.
However, the unimpressive result against Colombia was by no means the fault of Solo alone. Questionable lineup choices, poor time management and bad decision making by the team all resulted in a less than satisfactory performance against the USWNT’s easiest opponent. Combine that with a Colombian side that was determine to go out of the Olympic tournament on a high, and the draw was all but a given.
Other than Solo’s uncharacteristic showing in goal, the other biggest point of contention revolved around Megan Rapinoe. In her very first competitive match back with the USWNT after tearing her ACL in December and an ensuing calf strain, Rapinoe had a spot in the starting XI. After just over 30 minutes on the field, Rapinoe was subbed out and Mallory Pugh replaced her on the field.
While starting Rapinoe and subbing her out before the first half was over, Head Coach Jill Ellis guaranteed that Rapinoe would get minutes, which she desperately needs after almost 10 months of not playing competitively. However, she also burned a sub early in the game that could have been useful in the second half.
Although Rapinoe did not play poorly against Colombia, her crosses and corner kicks were slightly off their marks, and it was evident that she is still shaking off the rust. Her lack of minutes and quality of play in Tuesday night’s match have many fans questioning not only Ellis’s decision to start Rapinoe, but to include her on the 18-player roster at all over healthy players who could be more effective on the field for the USWNT.
It was a mistake by Rapinoe in the 25th minute that led to Colombia’s first goal of the night. Rapinoe fouled a Colombian player, awarding them a free kick from just outside of the box. Catalina Usme, a player who is a proven threat on free kicks, sent the ball over the wall of USWNT players and right towards goal, where Solo was waiting. However, the ball slipped right through Solo’s hands and knees and right into the back of the net to give Colombia an early lead. On any other night, that would have been a stop by Solo, but for some reason Tuesday night, it got through.
Crystal Dunn put a ball into the back of the net for the United States just minutes before half time. Carli Lloyd took a shot on goal in the 41st minute, but Colombian goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda was able to get a hand on it. However, Sepulveda’s touch was only enough to cause the ball to bounce off of the crossbar and to the feet of Crystal Dunn, who hit the ball with the outside of her foot and straight into the back of the net.
Mallory Pugh would give the USWNT their only lead of the night in the second half off of a play generated by Dunn. In the 60th minute, Dunn streaked down the left flank with the ball and sent a cross in to Pugh, who attempted a one-touch shot that inadvertently hit teammate Christen Press and bounced off of her legs. Pugh was there to collect the wayward ball though, and she easily dribbled back to where she had another look on goal. Her second shot was not blocked by teammate or opponent, and the USWNT would take a 2-1 lead.
However, just when it looked like the USWNT might squeak out another win, Usme was able to get another ball past Solo in second half stoppage time off of another free kick. Lining up nearly perpendicular to the goal, Usme swung the ball towards the far upper ninety, and Solo was unable to get more than just a fingertip on the shot before it bent and went in for the equalizer.
Although the draw was technically a success for the USWNT in that it put them at the top of Olympic Group G, it most likely is being looked at as a loss by many fans and critics alike.
The USWNT will next play in the Olympic quarterfinals against Sweden in Brasilia on Friday, August 12 at 12 p.m. EST. The match will be aired on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and NBC Universo and will be streamed online at nbcolympics.com.
COL – Cataline Usme, 26’
USA – Crystal Dunn (Carli Lloyd), 41’
USA – Mallory Pugh (Crystal Dunn), 60’
COL – Cataline Usme, 90’
USA Lineup: Hope Solo; Ali Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn, Whitney Engen, Kelley O’Hara; Morgan Brian (Allie Long, 65’), Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd (C; Alex Morgan, 46’); Megan Rapinoe (Mallory Pugh, 33’), Christen Press, Crystal Dunn
Subs Not Used: Alyssa Naeher, Tobin Heath, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg
Head Coach: Jill Ellis
COL Lineup: Sandra Sepulveda; Liana Salazar, Orianica Velasquez (Isabella Echeverri, 46’), Angela Clavijo, Nataly Arias, Carolina Arias; Natalia Gaitan (C), Tatiana Ariza (Ingrid Vidal, 80’), Leicy Santos, Catalina Usme; Lady Andrade (Diana Ospina, 62’)
Subs Not Used: Catalina Perez, Carolina Arbelaez, Mildrey Pineda, Nicole Regnier
Head Coach: Fabian Taborda
COL – Liana Salazar (caution), 72’
USA – Ali Krieger (caution), 86’
COL – Natalia Gaitan (caution), 88’