The United States Women’s National Team had another lackluster performance as they battled Australia to a scoreless draw at Kashima Stadium in Kashima. Despite the result, the USWNT qualified for the knockout stage of the Olympic tournament as Group G runners-up, with Sweden beating New Zealand in the other matchup occurring simultaneously.
Starting XI: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 5-Kelley O’Hara, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Capt.), 12-Tierna Davidson, 2-Crystal Dunn; 8-Julie Ertz, 16-Rose Lavelle (6-Kristie Mewis - 88’), 3-Samantha Mewis (9-Lindsey Horan - 65’); 11-Christen Press (21-Lynn Williams - 74’), 13-Alex Morgan (10-Carli Lloyd - 74’), 15-Megan Rapinoe (7-Tobin Heath - 65’)
Unused Subs: 18-Adrianna Franch, 20-Casey Krueger
With 1,000 school children in attendance for the match, giving Americans their first match at the Olympics in front of a crowd of any size, it was a pretty tight affair for both teams in the first half. There were very few chances generated by either side. Both teams were operating a high back line to keep their attackers at bay, and for the USWNT, it meant the Aussies were able to dominate possession and the Americans were working off the counter.
The first chance for the United States came in the 8th minute. On a counter attack, Rose Lavelle made a terrific pass to free up Alex Morgan in the middle of the field. Morgan was able to get free with the ball on a long sprint past the defense, but her shot was collected by Aussie goalkeeper Teagan Micah.
The Aussies had a great chance in the 16th minute. Off a corner kick, Mary Fowler found a bouncing ball in the box with some shaky defending by the Americans and headed it off the crossbar 16th minute.
The USWNT thought they got on the board in the 29th minute, when a short corner led to a terrific cross by Kelley O’Hara and the header finish by Alex Morgan. However, the referee ruled it offside on the field. VAR took a look at the call and the decision was confirmed as Alex Morgan’s left shoulder was a few millimeters ahead of the last defender.
There wasn’t much to be had by either team after that. In the 38th minute, Megan Rapinoe tried to find a long punt by Alyssa Naeher on the edge of the 18. She ran into Aussie goalkeeper Teagan Micah, and then shoved her after being called for the foul, kicking the ball in disgust. Rapinoe received a yellow card for her foul.
In the 45th minute, just before stoppage time, the USWNT found themselves on another counter attack where Alex Morgan found Christen Press on a long ball into the box. However, Press’s first touch took her on an angle away from goal and she couldn’t get a good shot to test Micah.
The first 10 minutes of the second half were just as tight as the first, with neither team wanting to give anything away to the other. The USWNT had what looked like a nice chance in the 58th minute on a free kick. However, Kelley O’Hara was offside on the flick from Megan Rapinoe.
In the 63rd minute, Samantha Mewis was able to find Megan Rapinoe, who found Rose Lavelle about 30 yards away. Lavelle’s left footed shot was easy for Micah to collect. Lindsey Horan and Tobin Heath entered the match in the 65th minute for Sam Mewis and Megan Rapinoe, and it didn’t take long for Horan to get involved in the action. In the 69th minute. Lindsey Horan off a free kick got her head on the ball, but redirected it wide for a goal kick.
Christen Press and Alex Morgan made way for Lynn Williams and Carli Lloyd in the 74th minute. Still, there wasn’t a lot of action on either side throughout the second half. Kristie Mewis came on for Rose Lavelle in the 88th minute, but despite the changes, the USWNT were not able to break through and get a goal for the win.
The USWNT will take on the Netherlands in the Olympic quarterfinals Saturday in Yokohama. They will need to drastically improve from today’s performance if they wish to defeat either team to give themselves a chance at a medal.