MANAUS, Brazil — The U.S. women’s soccer team finished Olympic group play with a disappointing 2-2 tie against Colombia that featured two mistakes by the usually reliable Hope Solo in goal. But the point still gave the U.S. first place in Group G as the Americans advanced to the quarterfinals.
Colombia’s Catalina Usme scored her second free kick of the night in the 90th minute to equalize when Solo tried to punch the left-footed blast and missed. It was the second mistake of the night by Solo, who let Usme’s 26th-minute free kick go between her hands and legs into the net.
The U.S. had equalized 1-1 on Crystal Dunn’s 41st-minute follow on a rebound of Carli Lloyd’s shot. And the Americans thought they had sealed it when 18-year-old Mallory Pugh had put them ahead 2-1 in the 59th minute.
The U.S. will play Sweden–coached by former U.S. manager Pia Sundhage–in the quarterfinals in Brasília on Friday at noon ET.
Here are three thoughts on Tuesday's game:
This was a strange game
Coach Jill Ellis left several prominent players on the bench to start—Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg and Pugh—and the U.S. still dominated possession. But there weren’t enough golden scoring chances given that dominance. Christen Press failed to convert two of the best opportunities, including a two-on-one break in which she and Pugh were alone on goal. Instead of shooting, Press tried to pass it to Pugh, who was offside.
That allowed the U.S. to let an overmatched Colombia team that had lost its first two games hang around in the game. The U.S. will need to sharpen up things once the opponents get better in the knockout rounds.
Gut-check time for Solo
After two sterling performances in this tournament, especially against France, Solo had a night to forget in goal. The last time Solo had committed a howler on such a stage for the U.S. came in the 2007 World Cup opener against North Korea, which shows you how rare it is for her to make a big mistake. But Solo was at fault on both Colombia free-kick goals on Tuesday.
She wasn’t the only one: The U.S. committed bad fouls in the first place that led to those free kicks. But this U.S. team has to know moving forward that it can’t give away cheap set-piece opportunities, because that’s how superior teams can end up losing games. Until now, it didn’t seem like the jeering from Brazilian fans had affected Solo. Things seemed different in this game.
Mixed results in Rapinoe's first action
Playing in her first game since tearing an ACL last December, Rapinoe got the start and lasted 33 minutes before coming off for Pugh (as planned by Ellis).
Rapinoe had some decent crosses, but she also committed a bad foul that gave Colombia the free kick on which it scored.
It remains to be seen whether Ellis will consider using Rapinoe as a starter in the knockout rounds, but it seems unlikely with Tobin Heath and either Pugh or Dunn ready to start on the wings.
Most likely, Rapinoe will be a super-sub the rest of the way.