It wasn’t pretty, but the United States Women’s Soccer Team won their group at the Rio Olympics after a 2-2 draw against Colombia in Manaus. The final group stage match also saw Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe make her return to the field, after her ACL injury last December.
The inclusion of Rapinoe to the 18-person Olympics roster had been debated, since her return to the field didn’t come at the warm-up friendlies before the Olympics as likely planned. This was because of a calf injury, but Pinoe got in 33 minutes in Manaus. In those 33 minutes, Pinoe had a few nice crosses into the box, including one that connected with Carli Lloyd’s head but went wide.
The cross was vintage Megan Rapinoe, but on the flip side, Pinoe committed a foul that set up Colombia’s Catalina Usme with a free kick just outside the box. You’d think ten times out of ten, Hope Solo secures that ball, but even arguably the best goalkeeper in the world can have an error. That’s what happened, and Colombia opened the scoring 26 minutes in.
Washington Spirit’s Crystal Dunn found the equalizer in the 30th minute. USA took the lead in the 60th minute, courtesy of Mallory Pugh, who became the youngest U.S. women’s player to score in the Olympics. At this point, the U.S. had momentum and it seemed safe to assume they would hold the lead and get their third win in group play. Then, in the 90th minute, Usme again nailed in a free kick to equalize.
Usme. Again. Brilliant. pic.twitter.com/GJGwjDqeHo— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) August 9, 2016
Normally from that angle you would think the ball is intended to find a head in the cluster but Usme went straight for goal and put such pace on the ball that it would have taken a highlight reel save by Solo to beat out a highlight reel goal.
From a Reign perspective ...
So what does it mean for the Seattle Reign FC when Pinoe and Solo return to the team? In the grand scheme, not much. Hope Solo having a bad night on the final group stage match when USA was assured a spot in the knockout rounds isn’t a sign that when she returns to the Reign she will struggle — especially considering the strong performance she put in against France.
"I personally gave up a goal I wish I could take back but I’ve been around game long enough to know that these things happen" - Solo #USWNT— Sebastian Salazar (@SebiSalazarCSN) August 10, 2016
As expected, Solo took responsibility for the first goal that she should have secured. Criticism of arguably the world’s best goalkeeper having a bad night is fair, but as a whole USA was flat tonight. Maybe it was because they knew it was the final group stage match, more or less meaningless since they were assured advancing entering today. Maybe it was the intimidating conditions of Manaus. The bottom line is they know they were flat and they cannot afford to do that in the knockout stages. The expectation to play in the gold medal match next Friday is still there and one off night in Manaus should not thwart that.
Rapinoe’s 33 minutes should only be viewed as seeing how she felt getting out there in her first competitive match in a really long time. The cross in the 9th minute was nice. Was the foul she committed that set up Usme’s first goal rust or just a bad decision? I’d go with the latter. How USA head coach Jill Ellis manages Pinoe the rest of the tournament is going to be different than how Reign FC head coach Laura Harvey will when she returns.
The United States play in the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics on Friday, August 12 against Sweden. A familiar face will be in the opponent’s bench as we all know Sweden’s head coach Pia Sundhage was the previous coach of the USWNT. Friday’s quarterfinal is their first meeting since last year’s 2015 FIFA World Cup group stage match, which ended in a scoreless draw. Kickoff of Friday’s quarterfinal is at 9 a.m. PT.