Rio Olympics: U.S. women will remain gold standard

The USA exited the Olympics with a heartbreaking quarterfinal loss to Sweden in a shootout after finishing with a 26-3 edge in shots.

It marked the first time in 13 major competitions it failed to reach the final four and raises some questions about the future of players like Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd.

But the good news is that even if the USA will have to replace about half its team for France 2019, it has a solid core of young players.

For three takeaways from the USA's early exit.

1. Mostly dominating but rarely convincing.

The difference between winning and losing at the top of the women's game is slim. Last year's Women's World Cup might have ended differently if Hope Solo had not iced Celia Sasic on the German's penalty kick with the USA-Germany semifinal tied at 0-0. And what if Solo had iced Lisa Dahlqvist and the Swede missed in Friday's quarterfinal?

At the 2015 Women's World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the USA mostly dominated but was rarely convincing. A championship in one and quarterfinal exit in the other are about right even if Friday's shootout loss was a stunner, marking the first time in 13 major competitions it failed to reach the final four.

Women's World Cup:
1991: champion
1995: third
1999: champion
2003: third
2007: third
2011: second
2015: champion

1996: champion
2000: second
2004: champion
2008: champion
2012: champion
2016: quarterfinalist

Whoever wins Olympic gold, the USA will remain the gold standard in women's soccer, the team everyone looks up to. No other national team receives the support the U.S. women receive from their federation and no other country throws more money after women's soccer like the United States. And no other players are bigger stars in their country than the stars of the U.S. national team.

"You best believe that in 2019 and 2020," Lloyd said afterwards, "we're going to be back for the gold."

2. Uncertain futures for Solo and Lloyd.

Six of the starters on the 2012 U.S. gold-medal team were 30-plus years old and only two of them -- Carli Lloyd and Solo -- were significant factors in the field when the USA won the 2015 World Women's Cup in Canada.

USA-Sweden: Highlights

Only three starters on Friday against Sweden were 30 years old or older -- Becky Sauerbrunn, Solo and Lloyd -- but five other starters will be 30 or older in 2019 when the next Women's World Cup is held in France so change will be in the offing.

Solo will be 38 and Lloyd 37 in 2019 so it's hard to believe they will both be around for France 2019 or Tokyo 2020.

Solo had the worst game of her career in a major competition in the 2-2 tie against Colombia. Her postgame tiff on Friday, was only the latest in a long line of incidents that have long since worn thin. There's no better goalkeeper in the world, though, as he showed in the second game against France, and that gives her a long leash. Whether Solo can stand up to the physical demands of goalkeeping for three more years remains to be seen.

Coming back from a knee injury, Lloyd scored in the wins over New Zealand and France and was unlucky to have a goal called off in overtime against Sweden but is not a dominating presence in midfield.

3. Plenty of youth to carry the mantle.

In recent years, lots of legitimate questions have been raised against the U.S. women's development program,. There were concerns that countries like France and Japan were passing the USA at the youth level. But Japan wasn't even in Brazil, and France exited disappointingly in the quarterfinals, like it did in Canada a year ago.

USA-Sweden: Player Ratings

The best news for the USA is that even if will have to replace about half its team for France 2019, it has a solid core of young players who have come through the youth pipeline in the last four years.

At 18, Mallory Pugh is the youngest U.S. women's player to start in an Olympic match -- and arguably the most multi-talented player to come into the national team. She has all the skills to be the playmaker the USA has always lacked.

Lindsey Horan is only 22, Morgan Brian 23 and Crystal Dunn and Julie Johnston still only 24. This was the deepest U.S. team in history with youngsters Emily Sonnett, Jaelene Hinkle and Sam Mewis all late Olympic cuts.

The next chance to see the USA in an international competition will come at the Under-17 Women's World Cup Sept. 30-Oct. 21 in Jordan. The player to watch: 17-year-old Ashley Sanchez (18 goals in 16 U-17 international matches), who has already been called into the senior national team.

USWNT fall campaign:
Sept. 15 -- Thailand in Columbus, Ohio
Sept. 18 -- Netherlands in Atlanta.
Oct. 19-27 -- FIFA fixture window.
Nov. 23-Dec. 1 -- FIFA fixture window.

3 comments about "Rio Olympics: U.S. women will remain gold standard".
  1. ROBERT BOND, August 15, 2016 at 11:38 a.m.

    saw them whining today-"not enough big competitions like the men" is it the USS's fault that women's soccer is not as important in most other countries? they should be glad it's getting more support where it is.....

  2. trebor gt, August 15, 2016 at 1:47 p.m.

    Didn't hear any whining about a lack of big competitions but they just had two in a row so I cannot see a beef there. All the women, with the exception of one has taken their defeat with grace. Hope's coward comment exposes her sportsmanship, or lack thereof and brings down the rest of the group. We lost, pro's learn, apply, and progress.

  3. schultz rockne, August 17, 2016 at 4:44 p.m.

    For better AND for worse, the USWNT has 'remained' fairly stagnant, player development-wise over the years. Quality suburban athletes (for the most part)--who played in US universities--have managed once again to be successful on an international level. I certainly did not anticipate them claiming the 2015 WWC...and for me (because frankly the US women don't have the soccer quality as say, France), that was a step in the wrong direction--meaning, those calling the shots and most of the supporting soccer community would look approvingly at the success and proclaim 'hooray--it's working, everything is alright!'---The men's side has begun, after decades, to address the requirements of player development. The women's side, too, needs to focus on the skill/tactics side when promoting players. It cannot afford the status quo. It stuns me when I hear folks claim Hope Solo as 'the best goalkeeper (female) in the world.' The best shot-stopper, sure. But only being able to boot the ball under pressure does not complete the picture and makes the position quite one-dimensional. And we should expect more by now.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications