A stunned Megan Rapinoe walks alone after the loss. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
As the U.S. women’s national team huddled together after its stunning 1-0 loss to Canada in the Olympic semifinals Monday, Megan Rapinoe talked to her teammates.
“It’s not the color we want, but there’s still a medal on the line so that’s a huge thing,” she said.
But the hurt was still there and could linger for a long time.
This was a team that was poised to become the first side to win a Women’s World Cup and an Olympics back-to-back.
“We want to win that game but yeah this sucks,” the veteran star told NBC Sports Marissa Pilla.
For the second consecutive Olympic tournament, the Americans won’t play for a gold medal. It was the first time in the history of the tournament that the USA failed to reach its goal.
“I feel like we haven’t had our joy, just hasn’t flowed for us,” Rapinoe said. “It hasn’t been easy. I think we’ve tried to find it. It’s not for lack of effort or anyone not giving everything they have.”
For the first time in a major tournament – Women’s World Cup or Olympics – that the team was shut out in three matches.
“You can see everything is all the way out there every single game but it just didn’t click for us,” Rapinoe said. “I don’t know if it was just roster rotations a lot. It’s a tough tournament trying to save people. But our bench is deep. I can’t quite put my finger on it, I’ve tried I’ve been, you know, thinking about the whole tournament we just didn’t have that juice.”
The average age of the team was 29.7 years, and the average age of the forwards hovered around 33. While those players such as Carli Lloyd (39) and Rapinoe (36) are talented, age can catch up to goal-scorers even if they lose a half a step. At the international level, that can be devastating.
The USA paid the price, although head coach Vlatko Andonovski didn’t think so.
“No, not at all,” he said.
Rapinoe added: “Can I just say something: I just think the players have a lot to look at ourselves about.”
The Canadians deployed excellent tactics, stifling the USA and forcing their foes into many midfield mistakes. The Americans outshot Canada, but the latter side put away its lone chance, a penalty kick that was the team’s lone shot on target.
“I mean obviously, not our best game in the tournament,” Rapinoe said. “We just didn’t have it today. Too many errors from us again. I felt like the space was there for us to play. Just couldn’t get into too many touches.
“It’s a bitter one to swallow. I don’t think I’ve ever lost Canada. So it’s a bitter one.”
The USWNT’s record in this tournament is underwater at 1-2-2, having beaten only Australia.
“We didn’t expect it to be easy,” Rapinoe said. “We couldn’t unlock it. We just couldn’t figure it out anywhere really on the field. It’s certainly not one of our better performances.”
That’s for certain.
Rapinoe, the Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner at the 2019 WWC, did not give any indication on whether she will hang up her boots.
As for goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher’s knee injury, Andonovski said team medical personnel did not know what the problem was and that the team would know more soon after an evaluation.