A big motivating factor for the U.S. women's national team at the Olympics is the chance to erase the memory of the 2016 Olympics, where it was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Kelley O'Hara is among six players on the national team roster who have won gold medals, but she is also among the 11 players who were on the team in Brasilia when it lost to Sweden in a shootout and became the first American team not to win a medal in women's soccer.
"It's a game and a loss that I have thought a lot about for the last five years," she said on a media call Monday afternoon with U.S. and Swedish reporters.
That quest for revenge begins in Tokyo on Wednesday when the USA opens against Sweden.
"Playing Sweden probably makes it feel more intense and more real, right off the bat,” says O’Hara, "because they are a great team. It's nothing we aren't used to. I think we have come up against Sweden in just about every major tournament I have been at with this team.”
Indeed, the USA has faced Sweden at each of the last five Women's World Cup. The Swedes are not only the lone team that has beaten the USA after 90 or 120 minutes in the last decade at the World Cup or Olympics -- a 2-1 defeat in the group stage at the 2011 World Cup -- but they gave the USA its toughest match since the 2019 Women's World Cup.
The USA played to a 1-1 tie in Stockholm in April, but the Swedes had the better chances and were unlucky to have a late penalty awarded to the USA for a foul that appeared outside of the area.
“If we play the way we played today," said U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski after the game, "it's not good enough."
Sweden finished third in the 2019 Women's World Cup, ousting Germany in the quarterfinals, losing to the Netherlands in the semifinals and beating England in the third-place game. It is the most complete of the three European teams in Japan. The Netherlands, Sweden and England (Great Britain in the Olympics) qualified as the top three European teams at the 2019 World Cup, finishing second, third and fourth behind the USA.
"They are a really good football side," says O'Hara. "They have some really great players individually but they play well collectively. They are a very organized group. They are also physically dominant. They are a physical side and use that to their advantage. They have a lot of characteristics that make them the football team they are."
GOALKEEPERS (3): 22-Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 5), 18-Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns; 6), 1-Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 73)
DEFENDERS (7): 17-Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, England; 71/0), 12-Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 34/1), 2-Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns; 116/24), 20-Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars; 34/0), 5-Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 140/2), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns; 188/0), 14-Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 56/0)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 8-Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 110/20), 9-Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns; 98/22), 16-Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 56/14), 19-Catarina Macario (Lyon, France; 7/1), 6-Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 26/4), 3-Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 77/23)
FORWARDS (6): 7-Tobin Heath (Unattached; 171/35), 10-Carli Lloyd (Gotham FC; 306/126), 13-Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 180/110), 11-Christen Press (Unattached; 149/63), 15-Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 179/59), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 37/11)
GOALKEEPERS (3): 12-Jennifer Falk (Hacken), 1-Hedvig Lindahl (Atletico Madrid, Spain), 22-Zecira Musovic (Chelsea, England)
DEFENDERS (6): 2-Jonna Andersson (Chelsea, England), 14-Nathalie Bjorn (Rosengard), 6-Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea, England), 4-Hanna Glas (Bayern Munich, Germany), 13-Amanda Ilestedt (Bayern Munich, Germany), 3-Emma Kullberg (Hacken)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 9-Kosovare Asllani (Real Madrid, Spain), 16-Filippa Angeldal (Hacken), 5-Hanna Bennison (Rosengard), 8-Lina Hurtig (Juventus, Italy), 20-Julia Roddar (Washington Spirit), 17-Caroline Seger (Rosengard)
FORWARDS (7): 19-Anna Anvegard (Rosengard), 11-Stina Blackstenius (Hacken), 21-Rebecka Blomqvist (Wolfsburg, Germany), 10-Sofia Jakobsson (Real Madrid, Spain), 7-Madelen Janogy (Hammarby), 18-Fridolina Rolfo (Wolfsburg, Germany), 15-Olivia Schough (Rosengard).
Photo by Federico Pestellini/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire