August 10, 2016
USA must hope for better performance from its GK in quarterfinals or it could really feel so low
By Michael Lewis
Hope Solo had a tough night against Colombia in a 2-2 Group G draw. She needs to fare better in the quarterfinals if the USA has any chance of winning another gold medal.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
If you're an optimist, you will point out that that was only the group stage, that Hope Solo got a howler of a performance out of her system and that the United States women will start anew in the knockout round of the Rio Olympics.
If you're a pessimist, you fear that type of cringe-worthy performance could be repeated when it really counts -- when the Americans are so close to their fourth consecutive gold medal and fifth overall.
Hopefully for Hope Solo's sake and that of the red, white and blue, it is the former and not the latter.
Solo's performance on Catalina Usme's free kicks were shaky at best. The first one, in which she allowed the ball go through her hands and legs, was a howler and could wind up as a howler for the ages, depending on how the Americans fare the rest of the way.
"Iíll choose to have short-term memory," she said about looking ahead, in her post-match interview on NBC.
It's no time to feel sorry for one self or reflect on the past. It's time for players to concern themselves for the future, the immediate future.
The American women are three wins away from making more history at the quadrennial event.
After all, much has been expected from this group and rightfully so.
They are the reigning world champions and they're trying to become the first team ever to win the Women's World Cup and Olympics in back-to-back years.
The USA has defined women's Olympic soccer, having reached the finals in all five attempts since the sport was added to the Summer Games, earning "only" a silver medal in a match-for-the-ages extratime loss to Norway at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games.
Standing in the way is Sweden in the quarterfinals Friday and most likely the fabulous Marta and the Brazilian juggernaut, in Tuesday's semifinals.
The Swedes withered away in the heat and humidity in the second half of their 5-0 group-stage loss to Brazil. But that side should not be taken lightly. Sweden is guided by former U.S. women's national coach Pia Sundhage, who directed the Americans to the 2008 and 2012 gold medals. She might not have the same quality of talent at her disposal this time around, but Sundhage is a master motivator and tactician. She will find a way to get the most out of her team.
And oh yeah, at last year's Women's World Cup in Canada, Sweden played the USA to a scoreless draw in the group stage, the only "blemish" on the Americans' record on the way to the title. Meghan Klingenberg's great header save on the goal line save the Americans from a loss in that encounter.
A year can be equal to light years in international soccer with injuries and retirement impacting a team and players' fitness and form varying greatly.
Hope Solo needs to be in top form not only against Sweden or Brazil and whomever reaches the gold-medal match from the other bracket.
Another howler in vital situation could bring great howls from a soccer community and even a country that has learned to expect nothing less than a gold medal.