U.S. women’s soccer team qualifies for Olympics; tough decisions ahead

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The U.S. women’s soccer team beat Mexico 4-0 to earn a place in the Tokyo Olympics on Friday night, keeping its record intact of qualifying for every major tournament.

Sam Mewis scored twice. Rose Lavelle and Christen Press added goals. Alyssa Naeher got the shutout in Carson, Calif.

The world champion U.S. was a heavy favorite against world No. 26 Mexico. The Americans are now 37-1-1 all-time against the neighbors to the south.

They’re 19-0 all-time in Olympic qualifying with a goal differential of 110-1 (not counting matches played after the U.S. already clinched Olympic berths).

The next tasks should be more difficult. First, forming an 18-player Olympic roster (versus 23 at the 2019 World Cup and 20 in Olympic qualifying). Second, becoming the first nation to follow a World Cup title with an Olympic title the next year.

Past U.S. teams faltered in 2000 and 2016.

In Rio, the U.S. was stunned by Sweden in a quarterfinal shootout. The Americans failed to reach an Olympic final for the first time. After, goalie Hope Solo (no longer with the national team) called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” for their defensive style.

“I remember not leaving the field for a long time,” Crystal Dunn said last fall. “The tears couldn’t come out of my eyes because I didn’t even want to believe that we were knocked out of the tournament. We had to bring it in for a huddle. And I can’t even remember the words that were said in the huddle because nobody was probably listening. Everybody was like, there’s nothing that could be said that’s going to make this moment feel any better than it is right now. We know the pain that we felt in that moment. And since then we have worked so hard to never have that feeling ever again.”

Julie Ertz, the U.S. Soccer Player of the Year after last summer’s World Cup triumph, agreed.

“If it wasn’t for 2016,” she said, “I don’t know if I’d be on the podium in 2019.”

At least five players from that 2019 World Cup podium will not be on the roster in Tokyo. New U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski and his staff left off the Olympic qualifying roster the two youngest World Cup players — Mallory Pugh and Tierna Davidson — though they could play their way back into Olympic selection.

The most intriguing name for the next few months is Alex Morgan. The star forward also wasn’t on the Olympic qualifying team because she’s due in April with her first child. Morgan said she wants to be considered for the Olympic roster.

Joy FawcettChristie RamponeCarla Overbeck and Kate Markgraf previously made Olympic teams as moms, all doing so at least one year after childbirths.

Carli Lloyd, who turns 38 a week before the Tokyo Games, is bidding to become the oldest U.S. Olympic soccer player in history, breaking Rampone’s record. Lloyd and Tobin Heath are trying to tie Rampone’s U.S. record of playing in four Olympic tournaments.

Lloyd, a substitute in all four 2019 World Cup knockout-round matches, was captain in this week’s tournament and started at center forward against Mexico.

Come the Olympics, the U.S. may have to go through the host nation en route to the gold. Japan beat the U.S. in the 2011 World Cup final, then lost to the Americans in finals at the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Cup.

Rio Olympic champion Germany failed to qualify to defend its title.

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