“You saw us give everything that we had today,” said U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo to ESPN. “Unfortunately the better team didn’t win.”
On Aug. 12, Cal’s Alex Morgan and the United States national women’s soccer team were unceremoniously eliminated in the Olympic quarterfinals by Sweden, who chose to play a defense-oriented game in the hopes of stopping the reigning Women’s World Cup champions from advancing to the semifinals. The team — specifically Solo — was incredibly vocal over its loss, telling ESPN that the United States “played a bunch of cowards” and “the best team did not win.”
While the Swedes did choose to play conservatively for the majority of the game, it does not take away from the unquestionably disappointing performance on the pitch that the Americans showed during the game.
The game remained scoreless until the 61st minute, when Swedish forward Stina Blackstenius angled in a perfect shot, which Solo could not get her gloves on, and scored. Morgan — who played for the Bears from 2007 to 2010 — equalized the game at one apiece in the 77th minute, hoping to keep the U.S.’s shot at a fourth-straight Olympic gold medal alive.
Morgan had another shot to take the lead in the 100th minute of the game during extra time, this time from seven yards out. The kick was blocked, however, perfectly encapsulating Sweden’s strong defense that was present throughout the matchup. The U.S. was unable to put up any more points for the rest of the game, leading to a penalty shootout as the game remained a draw after the 120-minute mark.
Morgan once again attempted to give her team a lead by starting off the United States’ penalty kicks. She was unable to duplicate her results from earlier, however, as the celebrated striker’s shot was knocked away by Sweden’s goalkeeper.
As one of the greatest strikers in the game, Morgan’s missed penalty came as a shock and would later haunt the U.S. later in the shootout.
With the game on the line, Solo attempted to break Lisa Dahlkvist’s rhythm by calling for time to ask for new gloves as Dahlkvist was about to kick her penalty.
Solo received a pair that was nearly identical to the pair she had on earlier, with Dahlkvist smiling on as she knew what was happening. She scored shortly after, handing Sweden the victory and ending the U.S.’s Olympic run.
Following their victory and Solo’s controversial statements, Swedish coach Pia Sundhage defended her team’s play on the field, telling ESPN that “it’s OK to be a coward if you win.”
International Olympic Committee spokesperson Mark Adams did not approve of Solo’s outburst, calling it “disappointing.”
This isn’t the first time Solo was in the limelight for a controversial comment during the Olympics. Before the Games even began, she posted a picture on Twitter about the Zika virus, wearing a beekeeper’s mask while holding a bottle of insect repellent. Brazilians did not take kindly to her photo, booing her every time she touched the ball during the U.S.’s match against New Zealand. The crowd even began chanting “Zika” on her goal kicks later in the game.
Although the U.S.’s elimination was seen as a shock, the team’s performance during its last two games against France and Colombia showed signs that the No. 1 women’s team in the world was slowing down. Although France ranks No. 3 in the world for women’s soccer, the U.S. was only able to score once, with Solo working magic in the goal to neutralize the U.S.’s poor defense during the final 15 minutes of the match.
The red, white and blue had difficulty in the following match against Colombia, settling for a 2-2 draw. The U.S. would have had the victory, had it not been for a ball scooting between Solo’s legs in the 26th minute. The U.S. would advance based on goals scored in its other games, before ending its journey in a heartbreaking fashion three days later.
Contact Chris Tril at [email protected].