Olympics loss to Canada could mean end of era for Carli Lloyd and USWNT
Canada beats the USWNT for the first time since 2001 to advance to the gold medal game. The U.S. will play for bronze, but what happens after that?
The U.S. lost their goalkeeper Monday, then they lost their shot at a gold medal, with Jessie Fleming beating backup keeper Adrianna Franch on a penalty kick in the 76th minute to give Canada a 1-0 win in a Tokyo Olympics semifinal.
The game turned in large part on a video replay, with Ukrainian referee Kateryna Monzul overruling her own call that U.S. defender Tierna Davidson had not fouled Canada’s Deanne Rose, who ran up the American’s back at the right edge of the penalty area. But after a long pause, the replay official convinced Monzul to take a look at the video, and the referee awarded the penalty.
Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, who has a record 187 international goals, walked the ball to the spot. But rather than shooting against Franch, her club teammate with the Portland Thorns, she handed the ball to Fleming, a former UCLA standout, who calmly slotted it inside the right post.
Canada will face the winner of the second semifinal between Sweden and Australia in the gold-medal game Friday while the U.S. will face the loser for bronze. The U.S., which had reached the final of the five first Olympic tournaments, has not played for the gold since 2012.
Monday’s win ended nearly two decades of heartache for eighth-ranked Canada, which hadn’t beat the U.S. in 37 tries dating to March 2001. That streak includes a bitterly contested semifinal in the 2012 Olympics, which the U.S. won on an Alex Morgan goal with just seconds left in the second overtime.
Only five starters on the U.S. team returned for Friday’s Olympic rematch, which kicked off at 5 p.m. in punishing conditions: 90% humidity and a heat index of 91 degrees. The weather was certainly no help to an aging American team that, like Canada, played 120 minutes in its quarterfinal three days ago.
The U.S. also had to overcome the loss of goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who went out in the 30th minute with a knee injury. Naeher, who saved the Americans’ medal hopes with a spectacular performance in the quarterfinals, twisted her right knee after colliding with teammate Julie Ertz while trying to punch away a dangerous cross from Canadian midfielder Jessie Fleming in the 20th minute.
After lying face down on the turf for several minutes, Naeher climbed gingerly to her feet, tested out her knee and decided to stay in the game. But she lasted just five more minutes, wincing in pain after taking a goal kick in the 30th minute, then immediately waving to the bench that she couldn’t continue, turning and limping off the field. As backup Adrianna Franch rushed on to take her place, Naeher pulled her yellow jersey up to her face and fought back tears as she made her way to the bench.
For Franch, 30, who attended her first training camp with the senior national team in 2012, the substitution marked just her seventh appearance in a game — her first in a world championship. She was a member of the 2019 Women’s World Cup team but never got off the bench.
And her teammates did a good job protecting her, with Franch’s first touch coming in first-half stoppage time and her first shot on goal on Fleming’s penalty shot. With both teams spending most of a sloppy first half trading errant passes in the middle of the field, Canadian keeper Stephanie Labbé wasn’t much busier, facing her first shot on goal in the 65th minute.
Both teams, whose quarterfinals went to tie-breaking penalty kicks, looked gassed from the start. But apart from the injury to Naeher, neither made any substitutions until the 60th minute. And the U.S. trio Carli Lloyd, Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe immediately made the Americans more dangerous, forcing Labbé into four saves in a six-minute span.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.