Another view of Alyssa Naeher’s final penalty kick save. (USA Today Photo)
By Michael Lewis
It certainly won’t go down in the books as one of the U.S. women’s national team’s prettiest wins, but the quarterfinal encounter with the Netherlands demonstrated how the squad can grind out a victory.
If you want to get really technical, the match goes into the books as a draw, a 2-2 result after 120 minutes before the Americans prevailed in the shootout, 4-2, to advance to the semifinals of the Olympic soccer tournament in Yokohama, Japan Friday.
The bottom line was that the Americans had advanced.
“It’s a you know very indicative of this team’s true identity,” said goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who made three big penalty kick saves – one during regulation and two during the shootout.
“We fought, we grinded for 120 minutes,” she told Marissa Pilla on NBC. “It took a lot of players and not only the players on the field but the players on the bench there are players. This team is together. This team fights for each other. This team has each other’s back both on and off the field. That’s what you saw tonight. We keep pushing together and we have that belief that we’re going to find a way to win. We were able to do that tonight.”
Naeher had a lot to do with the team’s success.
She denied Lieke Martens’ penalty kick in the 80th minute and stopped Vivianne Miedema and Aniek Nouwen on the first and lasts shots, respectively, in the shootout.
The goalkeeper’s strategy?
“Just stay focused on the ball,” Naeher said. “Deep breaths and let the training take over and just stay in the moment. That’s the biggest thing is just trying to stay in the moment and obviously in a shootout, you know, especially for me, it’s taking it one shot at a time. You don’t want to think about all five at one time and just each one that comes up, take it one at a time and focus on that one.”