Olympic Soccer: USWNT Crash Out of Rio 2016

The US women’s national team crashed out of the Rio Olympics, losing its quarterfinal match against Sweden on penalties after finishing 1-1 AET.

The USWNT’s four matches at the Rio Olympics all told a different story. Those stories were often overshadowed by the team picking up two wins and a draw, topping Group G. However, against Sweden, the USA finally ran up against an opponent able to knockoff the world’s top women’s team. It was the first time the USWNT had been knocked out of a major tournament without reaching the semifinals.

In the USWNT’s opening match against New Zealand, it was the USA’s inability to score goals and extend its lead that was most noticeable. Match day two against France saw the USA’s defense bending to the verge of breaking before being bailed out by Hope Solo. In the final group game, it was Solo’s mistakes that cost the USWNT all three points.

Against the Swedes, the US started the match brightly, testing Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl early. In the opening 45 minutes, the US was on top, holding 73% possession, yet the ladies couldn’t do anything with that possession to breakdown Sweden. The final third was well defended by the Swedes, and the US was unable to find a way to cut through its rival’s back line.

Despite all the USA’s possession, its inability to score came back to haunt them. Sweden broke on a counter-attack with Stina Blackstenius outpacing the USA’s defense. Her angled shot from about 10-yards out, caught Solo leaning to her left, and the shot was impossible for the USA’s No. 1 to save.

The Equalizer on Twitter

SWE goes ahead on the counter attack, Blackstenius the scorer.pic.twitter.com/TUSyQtM6RD

Sweden had scored on only its second shot of the match, showing that organized defending and a quick counter-attack is just as potent as possession based soccer.

Just as time was running out on the USA, the ladies found a way to equalize. However, it wasn’t the team’s creativity or flare that helped them find a way through, rather a mishandled clearance led to the goal. Sweden’s Jessica Samuelsson attempted to clear an innocuous ball played into the 18-yard box. Her touch was too heavy, falling to Alex Morgan’s left foot, and the striker made no mistake putting her shot into the back of the net.

The Equalizer on Twitter

Unfortunate ball of the Swedish defender, setting up Alex Morgan perfectly for the shot.pic.twitter.com/mxQ1gZ39q9

Neither team could find the winner and the match went into extra-time. Both teams had chances with the first falling to Morgan. Christen Press split Sweden’s defense with a beautifully weighted pass that found Morgan in space. However, her first touch was poor, taking her to the end line, allowing Lindahl to come off her line and make the save.

Both teams had thought they had the match wrapped up in the second half of extra-time as both had goals disallowed. First, the USA’s Carli Lloyd was rightfully judge to have fouled Magdalena Eriksson just before heading home a cross.

Minutes later, Sweden’s Lotta Schelin was wrongfully judge to have been offside when she put Sweden into the lead. The ruled out goal gave the USWNT another chance, but it would have to be taken in the penalty shootout.

The USA shot first as Morgan stepped up to the penalty spot. However, Lindahl was up to the challenge, saving Morgan’s shot. Sweden’s Schelin converted the Swedes’ first penalty, taking a 1-0 lead. But the USA would fightback, with Solo saving Linda Sembrant’s shot, as the USA leveled the shootout.

The Equalizer on Twitter

SWE wins PK shootout 4-3.pic.twitter.com/bwNHSuPU4Y

The two sides traded penalties, making the score 3-3, until Press stepped up and skied her shot over the crossbar. Sweden’s Lisa Dahlkvist stepped up next for the Swedes, striking her penalty past Solo and sending the USA home.

Drew Farmer
I am a freelance journalist and author currently living in Manchester, England. Originally from the USA, I have written about sports and travel for years.I have written for Hopeless Football Romantic magazine, The Football Pink magazine, World Soccer Talk, Sports Collectors Daily, Forza Italian Football and many more. My debut book Soccer Travels was released in spring 2016, and details travelling to soccer matches around the globe. It can be purchased on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.