Yokohama, Japan, Friday, July 30, 2021 - USA teammates rush to congratulate Megan Rapino and Team goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (1) after a shootout victory over Netherlands in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Women's Football Quarterfinal at International Stadium Yokohama. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Teammates rush to congratulate Megan Rapino and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher after a shootout victory over Netherlands in the women’s soccer quarterfinal. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
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U.S. women’s soccer team edges Netherlands on penalty kicks to advance at Olympics

Megan Rapinoe scores the decisive goal in penalty kick shootout as the U.S. women’s soccer team survives to defeat the Netherlands at Tokyo Olympics.

For the second time in as many Olympic soccer tournaments, the fate of the U.S. women’s team came down to a penalty-kick shootout, perhaps the cruelest way in all of sports to decide who goes on and who goes home from a major world championship.

And this time they got it right with goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who saved a penalty kick in regulation, saving two more in the shootout to beat the Netherlands and send the U.S. on to the Tokyo Olympics semifinals. The game ended in a 2-2 draw.

Rose Lavelle, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press scored in the shootout for the U.S., Press’ score helping to make up for her miss five years out in Brazil that ended a loss to Sweden.

In Monday’s semifinal the U.S. will meet Canada, which beat Brazil on penalty kicks in its quarterfinal. The last time the U.S. and Canada met in an Olympic semifinal, in 2012, Morgan’s goal in the final ticks of extra time pushed the Americans through to the final, where they beat Japan.

Credit for even making the shootout necessary goes to Lynn Williams, who was making her first start in a major international tournament and brought pace and energy in a first-half performance that saw her score one goal and assist on another by Sam Mewis.

Vivianne Miedema scored both goals for the Netherlands, one in each half, giving her 10 for the tournament, extending her Olympic record.

Both teams had chances to win the game before the shootout, but Lieke Martens, a former world player of the year, was stopped on a penalty kick by Naeher, who guessed correctly, diving to her left to smother the shot at the post in the 81st minute.

Naeher saved the U.S. again 13 minutes into extra time with a brilliant give stop on a header from Miedema.

The U.S. would lose one goal to an offside call in the second half and two more potential game-winning goals in the second extra-time period, bringing to nine the number of scores the U.S. has lost for being offside in four games in Japan, an unthinkable stat for an experienced team averaging 92 international caps.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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