USWNT Falls to Canada, Ending Frustrating Olympic Trip

USWNT Falls to Canada, Ending Frustrating Olympic Trip
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USWNT Falls to Canada, Ending Frustrating Olympic Trip

USWNT Falls to Canada, Ending Frustrating Olympic Trip

KASHIMA, Japan – The referee’s whistle had barely finished when the Canadian players sprinted towards midfield and unleashed an explosion of exhilaration that echoed through an otherwise silent stadium.

They formed a tight circle, bouncing, laughing, screaming. The minutes passed. The cheers continued. The players had a lot to celebrate, years of pent-up emotions to unleash.

On a scorching Monday night at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium, Canada claimed an unexpected, but not entirely improbable, 1-0 victory over the United States in the Women’s Olympic Soccer Tournament, scoring a late second-half penalty. to secure a place in the gold medal. medal game Friday night in Tokyo.

It was sort of a breakthrough for the Canadians, who won bronze medals at the previous two Summer Olympics, in 2012 and 2016, but have a bitter history against the United States. On the flip side, it felt like the culmination of an era for the United States, whose players then struggled to pinpoint what exactly happened throughout the tournament.

“The first job is done for us: change the color of the medal,” said Christine Sinclair, 38, the captain of Canada, who will face Sweden or Australia in her first major tournament final after participating. to five World Cups and three previous ones. Olympic Games. “Now that we’re in the final, we’re going.”

After the final whistle, as the tornado of Canadian jubilation continued to swirl, Carli Lloyd of the United States was crouched on the grass, completely still, pulling her head in her hands.

The United States, the No.1 ranked team in the world, were hoping to continue their 2019 World Cup title with an Olympic gold medal. But they were never able to put the pieces together in Japan, never quite looked like the juggernaut they have been for generations.

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“I was just gutted,” said Lloyd, 39, two-time gold medalist and the team’s oldest player. ” We get up early. We are training late. We sacrifice. We give up so much, and you want to win. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t. It’s just heartbreaking, really.

With that, a golden chapter in American football seemed to be coming to an end. The program may continue to gain momentum in the major tournaments to come, but it won’t be with this group of players, many of whom have become household names.

After the game, in the tunnel off the pitch, Megan Rapinoe, 36, was asked what the future holds for the group. Her voice seemed to falter as she considered the question.

“Obviously some of us are closer to the end than the start, and we had an amazing race, a lot of nights that felt different from that,” she said. “We’ve been through so much together. “

“We did our job,” she added of her generation of players. “But you never want this to end.”

The game got off to a bad start for the Americans. They lost their star goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, the penalty shootout hero of their quarter-final victory over the Netherlands, to a right knee injury barely half an hour after the start of the match.

But in the end, it was a shot that no goalkeeper would have saved that sank them.

In the 74th minute, Canadian midfielder Jessie Fleming headed for the penalty spot after a video of a foul gave her team the advantage. Taking a breath and clearing his head, Fleming slashed his penalty loud and clear to the left of Adrianna Franch, the substitute goalkeeper who had sprinted to replace Naeher in the first half. When the ball rippled the side net into the corner of the goal, it sent his team into loud celebrations.

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A penalty was not initially awarded on the pitch, but this was confirmed by a second look from video assistant and match referee Kateryna Monzul of Ukraine. On the game in question, US defender Tierna Davidson and Canadian forward Deanne Rose came together as they chased a bouncing ball into the penalty area. Davidson took a hit, but missed, and instead cut off Rose’s leg, which fell to the ground.

Monzul examined the contact on a side monitor then came back and dramatically pointed the spot.

“Jessie was cool, calm and collected,” Rose said. “We work so hard, we don’t give up and we go for the gold.”

The loss brought the Americans out of a tournament in which they never seemed completely comfortable. They fell to Sweden, 3-0, in their opener and looked hesitant and heavy at various points thereafter.

The outcome of this tournament is likely to be seen as a failure for coach Vlatko Andonovski, who was hired in October 2019 and tasked with maintaining the high status of the best team in the world. For almost two years he had been doing this; Sweden’s opening defeat was the first in his tenure, but its effects lingered as the team struggled to move on.

Players struggled to identify exactly what was wrong with Japan. But Lloyd and Rapinoe, who started Monday’s game on the bench, suggested they were struggling with Andonovsky’s “rotations” – that is, the way the coaching staff handled their staff – and other players, notably forward Alex Morgan, haven’t done much to cover up their disagreement. sometimes with coach tactics.

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“I feel like we haven’t had our joy a bit, hasn’t sunk for us, hasn’t been easy,” said Rapinoe. “We tried to find him. It is not for lack of effort. It didn’t click for us. I don’t know if it was alignment rotations.

As the Canadian players celebrated their victory, the Americans lingered on the field, trying and failing to find the words to ease the pain of the moment for each other.

“Nobody knows what to say, and everyone just wishes they could turn to dust,” Rapinoe said. “But that’s not how it works. We have another game. We have yet another medal to win. This is obviously not the type of medal we wanted.

Long after her teammates left the field, Lloyd walked to the baseline and began to sprint. To the first line and back. Then the second line and back. And then then.

“If we’re not going to come away with a gold medal, I would at least like to come away with a bronze,” said Lloyd.

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