USWNT’s defeat at the Tokyo Olympics means it’s time for the offspring



The US women’s soccer team came unbeaten to Tokyo as the reigning world champion after 44 games. They had won four gold medals at the six Olympic Games, which included women’s football.

Her 2019 World Cup victory in France made her famous.

But the unmatched success and confidence that came with it could have contributed to the downfall of the team in Japan, which ended with a 1-0 loss to Canada in the semi-finals on Monday. An experienced US team seemed to have passed its prime at these Olympics and will go to the bronze medal game against Australia on Thursday.

Canada – which hadn’t beaten the US in 20 years – face Sweden for the gold medal, a championship game that once seemed like a birthright for US players.

The United States went goalless in three of their five games.

“The team has clearly underperformed,” said Jerry Smith, coach of the reigning NCAA women’s soccer champions at Santa Clara University. “You didn’t play a single game well at the tournament.”

Some are already calling for the squad to be revised and for coach Vlatko Andonovski, who failed at his first major tournament, to be sacked.

US soccer officials don’t have much time to think about their next move. The Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is two years away. The Paris Olympics are scheduled for 2024.

The national team program changed coaches when Jill Ellis retired after winning France in 2019. But Andonovski retained a core group of Ellis’ players for the Olympic tournament, including 11 players over 30 years of age the trophies they had won.

But if the USA hadn’t won their third World Cup in 2019, major changes to the squad might have taken place before the Tokyo games – and that in turn would have created a stronger team.

It’s a sad but natural cycle of sport. Talented athletes lose a lead over time.

“At some point it will be over,” said Carli Lloyd, the oldest player on the Olympic team at 39. “So just try to enjoy every moment.”

Lloyd didn’t say the Tokyo Olympics would be their last major tournament in the US colors. But she hinted at it when she told reporters, “I’m not going to lie, I miss a normal life.”

The team’s biggest celebrity, Megan Rapinoe, avoided the question of retirement.

Rapinoe, 36, parried the questioner on Monday and said: “You guys are already trying to take me to the pasture.”

But the big names Lloyd and Rapinoe aren’t the only older players. Defender Becky Sauerbrunn is 36 years old. Strikers Tobin Heath, 33, Christen Press, 32, and Alex Morgan, 32, were neutralized by faster Canadian defenders on Monday.

Press’ former Stanford team-mate Kelley O’Hara, 33, struggled on the flank after initial successes in the first few minutes of the game.

Together, these women have enjoyed acclaimed careers that fans hoped would continue in these Olympics.

The heat and humidity of Japan gave these desires a dose of reality.

The Americans played sluggishly in Japan. Their only breakthrough was a 6-1 triumph over New Zealand, a throwaway game given the Kiwi’s meager talent levels. The United States opened the tournament with a 3-0 win for Sweden and a goalless draw with Australia in the group game. It escaped the quarter-finals with a penalty shoot-out victory over the Netherlands.

Andonovski, a successful coach in the National Women’s Soccer League, said in June that he was not worried about the age of the players. He judges them based on their performance.

“If you look at the statistics, you will see that Megan Rapinoe scored the most goals in 2021 and Carli Lloyd has the most assists,” he said at the time.

Andonovski switched players to keep them fresh over five games in 13 days. But the plan left the team in a leadership tweak as Lloyd, the captain, was only on the field for a limited time.

Americans never developed the close chemistry required in tough times in a big tournament like the Olympics.

Even if there is another bronze medal game to be played this week, it is not too early to look ahead.

Andonovski – or whoever is hired to lead the team through the next cycle – has plenty of promising talent to consider.

None is bigger than Stanford’s Catarina Macario, 21, a two-time college player of the year who turned pro this spring.

Macario made the Olympic list but hasn’t played yet. Some say she has the potential to become one of the greatest players in history.

Another former Stanford player on the horizon is Sophia Smith (20), who signed the NWSL’s top draft pick after a season with the Cardinal.

Aside from these fascinating local players, national team coaches in the Bay Area and across the country have a lot more options.

As much as the fans fell in love with the current group, they will have to get used to some new faces.

It happened before when greats like Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach and Smith’s wife Brandi Chastain left the stage.

The success of the US women’s team depends on it.


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