US women’s soccer loses to Canada in Olympic semifinal, ending bid for gold
KASHIMA, Japan - Carli Lloyd, clutch in so many critical moments for the U.S. women's soccer team, failed to connect against Canada on Monday night and the Americans won't play for a fifth Olympic gold medal.
Lloyd's look in the 86th minute with the United States trailing by a goal hit the crossbar as Canada won 1-0 and dropped the Americans into the bronze medal match. It is the second straight Olympics that the U.S. failed to reach the gold medal game.
The Americans were bounced from the 2016 Rio Games by Sweden in the quarterfinals.
As Canada celebrated wildly at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium, Lloyd knelt to the turf with her head in her hands.
"That wasn’t good enough," said Lloyd, the oldest player on the U.S. team at 39 and playing in what was likely her last major tournament with the national team.
KASHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 02: Gabrielle Carle #21, Nichelle Prince #15 and Shelina Zadorsky #4 of Team Canada celebrate their side's victory after the Women's Semi-Final match between USA and Canada on day ten of the Tokyo Olympic Games at Kashima Stad
The U.S. lost starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher when she came down awkwardly after going up for the ball around the 20th minute. Trainers attended to her for some five minutes as backup Adrianna Franch warmed up on the sideline.
Naeher tried to stay in the game, but was replaced by Franch in the 30th minute.
Canada pounced in the 74th minute on Jessie Fleming’s penalty kick, which gave Canada its first win against the United States since 2001.
Fleming booted her PK past a diving Franch and took off toward the sideline, sliding on her knees before teammates swarmed around her.
The U.S. will play for the bronze on Thursday in Kashima against either Sweden or Australia.
Canada will play for the gold Friday at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium against the winner of Sweden-Australia. Canada features Quinn, a midfielder who will become the first openly transgender athlete to win an Olympic medal.
Quinn won bronze in 2016 before coming out as transgender.
It is the second straight Olympics that the Americans, the two-time defending World Cup champions, will not play for the gold medal. The team was uncharacteristically uneven in Japan, starting with a 3-0 loss to Sweden that snapped a 44-game unbeaten streak.
The Americans bounced back to beat New Zealand but then came a scoreless draw with Australia in the group stage. A 4-2 penalty shootout against the Netherlands on Friday advanced the U.S. to the semifinals.
The loss of goalkeeper Naeher clearly hurt the U.S. She was key to the victory over the Dutch in the quarterfinals, with a penalty save during regulation and two more in the deciding shootout. After the semifinal loss, she was on crutches.
The previous time the U.S. played neighbor Canada in the Olympics was 2012 in 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. That touched off the sequence that resulted in the tying goal.
"For those of us that were part of the 2012 team, it's nice to get a little revenge in an Olympic semifinal," Sinclair said.
After her celebrating teammates had started to leave the field, Sinclair laid down on the field in relief.
"I was just sitting there thinking how proud I am of this team," she said. "It's a very unique group. It's a special group and I'm so proud to be a part of it."
The Canadians have won the bronze medal in the past two Olympics.
"I think this is my first loss ever to Canada," Megan Rapinoe said. "It sucks not to be able to compete for a gold medal, which is what we wanted. Not a great performance, either. That's the most frustrating thing."
U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski has been creative with his lineups throughout the tournament. On Monday, Lynn Williams, originally an alternate, started her second straight game. Lloyd, Rapinoe and Samantha Mewis were on the bench to start.
Lloyd actually had two attempts against Canada. She 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 header off a corner from Rapinoe as the United States increased the pressure.
"Definitely had a bit of a momentum shift there in the second half, and came on strong," Labbe said. "I think for us it was about staying tight defensively and that's something we've done all tournament."
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