YOKOHAMA, Japan — At the 2016 Olympics, the United States women’s soccer team succumbed to penalty kicks in a quarterfinal loss to Sweden.
This time would be different.
Megan Rapinoe buried a shot in the fourth round to seal it after goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher delivered two saves, helping the U.S. to a 4-2 penalty kick win after a ferocious 2-2 tie after 120 minutes.
Among the American heroes were Alex Morgan and Christen Press, who both missed penalty kicks in 2016 but made no mistakes this time around. Rose Lavelle also converted.
The win moves the United States into the Olympics semifinals where they will face rival Canada on Monday.
“This team always believes we will find a way to win. And I think you saw that tonight,” Naeher said. “The way this team came together, kept fighting, playing for each other, pushing and pushing and pushing for 120 minutes.
“And then to have those four step up and bury their four penalties,” she continued. “We won tonight as a team. That was a true team effort and team win.”
The hero was clearly Naeher, a gifted but understated goalkeeper who succeeded Hope Solo as the U.S. netminder. She made an incredible sprawling save on Vivianne Miedema to give the Americans the early edge during penalty kicks. She then stopped Aniek Nouwen in the fourth round to set up Rapinoe, who is the Americans' best taker.
Rapinoe drilled a shot into the left side and then crossed her arms and posed in satisfaction as her teammates ran in to mob her.
Naeher, the 33-year-old from Connecticut, had come up big all night, saving the Americans during a number of precarious moments.
That includes a 102nd-minute diving save on a header. Then there was the biggest, in the 80th minute, when Kelley O’Hara committed an obvious foul in the box setting up a Lieke Martens penalty kick. Martens tried to tuck it low and inside the right post but Naeher stretched out for the save.
The USWNT, meanwhile, had its own share of missed opportunities. Mainly though, it couldn’t stay onside.
The Americans continued their plague of goals called back due to offsides, having three more wiped off the board, including a 109th-minute goal by Press and another in the 112th by Morgan. Either one would have effectively ended this and put the U.S. into the semifinals to play Canada.
It brought their tally to an astounding nine withdrawn goals in just four games in this tournament. They have been whistled for offsides 23 times in the tournament.
The game was a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final the Americans won 2-0.
Lynn Williams got the unexpected start up front but delivered with a goal on a one-time shot in front of the net and an assist where she served a ball in for Lindsey Horan to head in.
The U.S. controlled much of the play, but star Netherlands striker Miemdema scored twice on beautiful shots, first to open the scoring in the 18th minute and then to level the game at 2-2 early in the second half.
The Americans will now play Canada in a rematch of their 2012 semifinal classic when Morgan scored in the 122nd minute to deliver a 4-3 victory. The Americans went on to win gold. This time they are trying to become the first team to follow a World Cup title with Olympic gold.
Sweden, their nemesis who soundly defeated them 3-0 in group play, will face Australia in the other semifinal.
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