American conservatives are celebrating Team USA’s loss to rival Canada in the semifinal round of the women’s Olympic soccer tournament — an upset critics say resulted from players’ focus on social activism.
It had been two decades since the United States lost a women’s soccer game to neighboring Canada and five years since the Americans dropped a major tournament, but all of that came to an end with a penalty kick late in the Olympic semifinal in Kashima, Japan on Monday.
After a scoreless first half, Canada went up 1-0 in the 74th minute on Jessie Fleming’s penalty against backup US goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, who had replaced injured Alyssa Naeher in the 20th minute.
The controversial foul was whistled by Ukrainian referee Kateryna Monzul after American defender Tierna Davidson collided Canadian midfielder Deanna Rose’s leg as they chased down a loose ball.
The US had a few scoring chances but failed to convert, including a Carli Lloyd shot in the 86th minute that deflected off the crossbar.
After the match, Lloyd knelt on the turf with her head in her hands.
‘I was just gutted,’ said Lloyd, a two-time gold medalist, as quoted by The New York Times. ‘We wake up early. We train 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.’
The US has been knocked out of gold medal contention, but still has a chance to win a bronze – a medal the team has never played for at the Olympics.
United States’ Kelley O’Hara, left, talks to teammate Lindsey Horan after being defeated 1-0 by Canada during a women’s semifinal soccer match at the 2020 Summer Olympics
Jessie Fleming of Canada scores their first goal from the penalty spot against Adrianna Franch
Megan Rapinoe comforts Carli Lloyd (crouched) after suffering a semifinals loss on Monday
The penalty itself may be debated for some time, but Team USA’s performance in the 2020 Olympics can only be described as disappointing. The reigning World Cup champions and gold medal favorites began the tournament by snapping their 44-match winning streak with a 3-0 loss to rival Sweden in group play.
Later the US played underdog Australia to a 0-0 draw, but the team appeared to have turned the corner by beating the Netherlands in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals.
‘Things just didn’t fall our way,’ US forward Alex Morgan said of the tournament, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal. ‘We didn’t play our best… I don’t know why.’
Canada goes on to face the winner of the late semifinal in Yokohama between Sweden and Australia. The gold medal match is set for Friday at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.
Christine Sinclair of Canada with a dejected Lindsey Horan of the US after the match
After a scoreless first half, Canada went up 1-0 in the 74th minute on Jessie Fleming’s penalty against backup US goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, who had replaced injured Alyssa Naeher in the 20th minute
Jessie Fleming of Canada celebrates scoring the go-ahead goal in Monday’s historic victory
‘It sucks,’ captain Megan Rapinoe told reporters. ‘Obviously, you never want to lose, you never want to lose in a world championship, you never want to lose to Canada, obviously, and you never want to lose playing the way we did.
‘We need to look at ourselves and need to perform better, period,’ she continued. ‘We don’t have the juice because the ball is banging off our shins, and we’re not finding open passes, not doing the simple things,’ said Rapinoe, after the first loss to their Northern neighbors in over 20 years.
‘We can deep dive into analyzing, but there’s all the preparation and analyzing you can do and all the tactics and then there’s everything else. You can’t put a name on everything else, but that’s what we were missing.
To Rapinoe, the Tokyo 2020 Games felt more like a chore than anything.
‘Football always needs joy, when the game is really played at its best, you have it. I feel like we haven’t been able to do that,’ she said.
‘Everything has been a little bit of a struggle, passes off here and there. I hope we find it, I love playing with a big smile on my face, I think everybody else does as well.’
Team USA’s Lindsey Horan is comforted by Canada’s Vanessa Gilles after the semifinal loss
Kadeisha Buchanan and Allysha Chapman of Team Canada celebrate their win on Monday
The Americans, who were vying for their fifth gold medal, had earned a spot in the semifinals on a 4-2 penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw with the Netherlands on Friday.
Naeher was key to the victory over the Dutch in the quarterfinals, with a penalty save during regulation and two more in the deciding shootout, but she came down awkwardly trying to go up for the ball in front of her goal in the 20th minute on Monday.
She was attended to by trainers for some five minutes while the backup Franch warmed up. While she tried to stay in the game, Naeher couldn’t continue and Franch was subbed into the game in the 30th minute.
Overall the United States is 51-4-7 against Canada. The most recent meeting was a 1-0 US victory at the SheBelieves Cup in February.
The previous Olympic meeting was back in 2012, a controversial semifinal match that went to overtime. Canadian star Christine Sinclair scored three goals, but the United States won it 4-3 on Alex Morgan’s header in the 123rd minute.
The controversy stemmed from questionable calls, including a rare six-second violation against Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod late in regulation — touching off a sequence that resulted in the tying goal.
Carlo Lloyd walks off the field as Team Canada celebrates their first win over the US since 2001
The US has been knocked out of gold medal contention, but still has a chance to win a bronze – a medal the team has never played for at the Olympics
Canada advanced 4-3 on a penalty shootout after a scoreless draw with Brazil in this tournament. The Canadians have won the bronze medal in the past two Olympics.
The US already advanced further in Japan than in the Rio Games, when the team was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Sweden.
Coach Vlatko Andonovski has been creative with his lineups throughout the tournament. On Monday, Lynn Williams, originally an alternate, started her second straight game. Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Samantha Mewis were on the bench to start.
Rapinoe had the game-clinching penalty kick against the Netherlands. She came in early in the second half, along with Lloyd and Christen Press.
Lloyd fired off a shot in the 65th minute that forced Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe to leap to push it over the crossbar. A short time later, Labbe stopped Julie Ertz’s head off a corner from Rapinoe as the United States increased the pressure.
Feming’s successful penalty chilled the Americans’ momentum.
Canada started Sinclair, the all-time leading international goal scorer among men or women with 187 goals.
Carli Lloyd appears dejected following Team USA’s semifinals loss to Team Canada