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Olympics / Team USA

USWNT Lose Lead Late in 2-2 Draw with Colombia

(AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

(AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)


Despite the struggles of the first two matches at the Olympic Games, the USWNT faced little trouble. They eased past New Zealand and even beat the world’s third best team, France. The team were expected to blow past the Colombians, who had not scored a single goal on the World Champions in their five previous meetings. Yet, the USWNT were involved in what proved to be a hard fought, and ultimately disappointing, 2-2 draw with the Colombians.

Swapping Estádio Minierão in Belo Horizonte for the hot and humid Arena da Amazônia in Manaus, US head coach Jill Ellis made four changes to her starting lineup. Meghan Klingenberg was benched as Kelley O’Hara switched from right back to left back and Ali Krieger took the open spot on the right side of defense. Meanwhile, Lindsey Horan replaced Allie Long in the center of midfield, and the front three received two changes, as Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath sat for Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe, respectively. Rapinoe was playing her first match since December, when she tore her ACL during the team’s victory tour.

Despite Colombia’s occasional forays into the US’ half, the majority of the first twenty minutes was spent much closer to Colombian goalkeeper Sandra Sepúlveda. The likes of Horan, Carli Lloyd, and Morgan Brian took shots at goal, but managed little breakthrough. 25 minutes in, Colombia were making their way towards Hope Solo yet again when Rapinoe committed a foul just yards from goal. Colombia were awarded a penalty, which Catalina Usme took. She sent the ball cleanly over the wall, and the ball was right in front of Solo’s hand. Instead of Solo making the easy save, though, the ball slipped through her legs and past the goal line. For the first time in their history, the Colombian women’s soccer team had not just scored against the US; they had also scored their first goal at the Olympics.

This was a position relatively unfamiliar to the USWNT. The last time they trailed their opponent was five games ago, when they faced Japan in a friendly at the beginning of June. The reigning world champions, though, went back to shooting at Sepúlveda, who was putting in a stellar performance as she tried to keep the lead for her team. Press was one on one with Sepúlveda in the 39th minute, but the goalkeeper managed to keep it away from goal easily. Two minutes later, the US would finally beat her.

Press ran into the penalty area and shot at Sepúlveda yet again, but the goalkeeper got a touch on it and sent it in a different direction. The ball ends up hitting the crossbar and bounced off, jetting straight in between two Colombian defenders. To greet the ball was Crystal Dunn, who put the ball away and notched her first goal at the Olympics. The half ended 1-1, with the USWNT ready to get the lead and finish the group with a perfect point total.

After taking off Lloyd for Morgan, the USWNT reaped the rewards of their attack early on in the second half. In the 59th minute, Dunn sent a ball into the penalty area, which met Mallory Pugh at the other end of the area. Pugh worked her way from her initial wide position to the center of the box, and with ten Colombians in the box, sent the ball past Sepúlveda. The USWNT claimed the lead many expected would not be this difficult to manage. A few minutes later, Press again gained an opportunity to put the match to bed. However, the forward missed from close range in an effort many would later rue.

Colombia managed a few attempts of their own, including another opportunity from a freekick in the 76th minute, which Solo easily sent away. The US were headed for another three points, when, in stoppage time, Colombia again won a freekick from an O’Hara foul. Usme again took it, this time from a wide angle. The ball soared over the players in the penalty area, and over Solo’s hands as she missed another opportunity many would have expected her to block easily. The stadium, full of native Brazilians sympathizing with the underdogs as they waited for their team to take the field later, erupted. The match, with just two minutes of stoppage time left to play, was even, and the match ended as such.

The punishment was little for the USWNT; despite only taking one point out of the match, they topped the group and await the third place team from either Group E or F. Nonetheless, the result was a hard one to swallow, with Solo telling NBC’s Sebastian Salazar after the match, “I personally gave up a goal I wish I could take back.” Solo said her team would “learn from this game, absolutely, and we’re going to watch a lot of footage on the set piece goals,” noting that the team, much like against France, needed work on defending set pieces. Finally, though, she took the high road, saying “ultimately, today isn’t what matters. It matters that we’re standing on top of that podium come the final.”

The USWNT next play their quarterfinal match on Friday, August 12, against Sweden.

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Pardeep is the New York Red Bulls Beat Writer for while also covering other soccer teams and events.
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