Olympics: USWNT is a shadow of its former self

The USA is through to the quarterfinals in women's soccer at the Tokyo Olympics.

Its 0-0 tie with Australia in Kashima clinched second place in Group G and set up a date on Friday with the Netherlands in Yokohama.

That's right: USA vs. Netherlands in a rematch of the 2019 Women's World Cup final.

The Americans won that game rather convincingly. But that magical summer for the USA and its traveling army of fans, which concluded with the 2-0 victory at the Groupama Stadium outside Lyon after stops in Reims, Paris and Le Havre, seems like ages ago.

Covid has warped our sense of time.

Two years on, you'd hardly recognize the U.S. national team. Which is strange because it's almost entirely the same team. Every player Vlatko Andonovski has started in the USA's three games lifted the trophy two years ago in Décines-Charpieu.

In the last decade, the USA has won three championships -- the 2012 Olympic gold medal and 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles -- and each time it was because new players were inserted into key roles, a step up from the team that entered the previous world championship competition.

The USA came close in 2011, losing to Japan in a shootout in the World Cup final. A year later, it took gold at Wembley thanks to a 2-1 win over Japan. Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Kelley O'Hara didn't start a game and Megan Rapinoe was a part-time starter in Germany in 2011. In 2012, they all started almost every game.

In 2015, Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Ertz took over in the middle of the backline for the USA, which allowed just three goals in seven games in Canada, the final two in the championship game after opening up a 4-0 lead on Japan after 16 minutes.

The USA was eliminated by Sweden in a shootout in the 2016 quarterfinals. A veteran revolt almost toppled head coach Jill Ellis, but she successfully inserted Alyssa Naeher, Abby Dahlkemper, Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle into the starting lineup -- none played in 2016 -- and all had big roles as the USA cruised to its fourth World Cup title in France.

In 2021, Andonovski seems ready to make only one significant change -- Tierna Davidson for Dahlkemper alongside Sauerbrunn in the middle of the backline, but that is only because Dahlkemper, excellent in France, was shockingly poor in the first two games in Japan.

The USA finished the first round with four points, its fewest ever in an Olympic or World Cup group stage, and it was shut out twice in three games, matching the number of times it had been shut out in six previous Olympic tournaments, a span of 32 games.

The concern going into the Olympics was the form of the USA's five strikers. Had age caught up with the quintet of superstars, all World Cup champions in 2015 and 2019, now ages 39, 36, 33, 32 and 32? All but Christen Press had long layoffs in 2020 or 2021, and she was the only forward who played particularly well during the Olympic tune-up series.

Only Morgan and Press have scored at the Tokyo Olympics, both off the bench after New Zealand faded on Saturday.

What no one would have expected is how poorly other players like Mewis and Dahlkemper have played. Even Lavelle, so threatening in France, has struggled to have an impact.

All in all, the USA has been a shadow of its former self, the exact opposite of what it has done over the last decade, going from strength to strength.



Will gold again prove to be elusive for the U.S. women? Many of the gold-medal favorites have already been knocked off at these Olympics, so it won't come as a surprise if they don't win.

After Tuesday's 0-0 with Australia, Andonovski assessed the USA's performance: “We came with the mindset that the first goal was to win the game, and the second one was to put in a good, professional performance.”

The U.S. women didn't win the game and they didn't play well, but they got the job done -- at least it kept them alive, something you'd never think of having to say about the four-time Olympic and four-time world champions.

43 comments about "Olympics: USWNT is a shadow of its former self".
  1. E Velazquez, July 28, 2021 at 6:31 a.m.

    The decline od USWNT brings serious questions . Who is responsable for our decline.  Is the Federation for not choosing a better coach. Is it our blindness in not developing new players. Is the lack of humility of our players who thought they were "stars with pride "but lacking love for their country as they demostrated it during the pre game  National Anthem ceremony. It seems an aberration that the coach would name as a Captain the player who has the least respect for our
    Country. What this player does it seems to be arrogant , conceited and not the best choise  for an exemple to the young girls in development. Final question : can  the sports and soccer press have
    more influence for our recovery?,  

  2. Mark Buckley replied, July 28, 2021 at 8:11 a.m.

    Wow, I thought this was an article about soccer, not an Fix/Sinclair editorial. It is clear that the team is too old. I'm not going to get into opinions if what constitutes "respect for our country." We need to bring along younger players who can keep up with the type of game Sweden played. I'm sure in the preparation for the Sweden game, neither team discussed respect for our/their country. Here is my soccer thought, start Press in the quarterfinals.

  3. Betty Lisec replied, July 28, 2021 at 12:34 p.m.

    Spot on! The players do not look happy!  Hate does that to you!

  4. George Miller, July 28, 2021 at 7:14 a.m.

    E Velazquez... spot on! MR wanted to be the star on and off the field. Her actions were lazy lip service
    did she volunteer her time to go into the city to support the black lives issue? Did she donate her time and energy? No she chose to wear the flag and then
    publicly shame it. I think the team lost its focus. The actions of a few divided them and this is the result. Much Of America saw their actions differently

  5. Ric Fonseca replied, July 28, 2021 at 3:43 p.m.

    IMHO, the decline or lack of "heart" and just plain a lacking desire to win has been the principal evil.  I really do not believe, as EV puts it, that lack of respect for the country is the main and crucial poster-boy for the team's thus far poor to middling showing, rather it is very difficult to accept that other countries are catching up with US soccer.  Perhaps if one read why the men's BB team fared so poorly against France, they ought to focus on coach Popvich's assessment that the rest of the basketball-playing world is catching up or has caught up with US basketball, and so IMHO, other countries are catching up with the WUSNT.  Was there some arrogance, self -centered opinions, an "we're better than the other team," mentality?  Possibly.  Was the coach, or even Coach Popovich the culprits for not having prepped their teams accordingly?  There's lots of ingredients in this stew of athletes in whatever sport, and it'd behoove us to focus on showling a little humility and not cry in our beers or milk.  Just lace up the boots and say PLAY ON!!!

  6. Anthony Petgrave, July 28, 2021 at 7:40 a.m.

    ...like the German & Spanish men, they've gone through one cycle too many.

    Change was necessary, and US Soccer failed to make those changes. In the end, post Ellis, the players "picked" the coach/manager, and the results speaks for those choices.

    This team needed an upgrade, and has been, at best, treading water. Thank goodness for Julie Ertz, not sure if any positive results would be possible without her in the middle, IMO.

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, July 28, 2021 at 7:56 a.m.

    The USSF did make changes. They took away the head coaches authority to make changes to how the team plays, and put Ernie Stewart in charge of the women's program as well as the men's. For the first time ever, the persons in charge of the women's program were not experienced womens coaches. No Anson Dorrance. No Tony DiCicco. No April Heinrichs. No Jill Ellis.

  8. James Casale replied, July 28, 2021 at 9:14 a.m.

    Agree.

  9. Bob Ashpole, July 28, 2021 at 7:44 a.m.

    I refuse to play the blame game. The only question that matters is how to improve the play of the team. That is the question that matters regardless of how successful the team is or isn't. 

    The players' politics or lifestyle simply doesn't matter. Yes, Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem, but that stopped prior to 2017. Give it a rest.

  10. Scott Chaney, July 28, 2021 at 8:17 a.m.

    If you know soccer and are truly watching these games with honesty you see that the American team needs to get younger....meaning quicker and faster. Morgan, Rapinoe, and Lloyd are painfully slow. S Mewis, Dunn, O'Hara, and Dahlkemper just need to play MUCH smarter. (Same for Heath at times. Less dribbling Tobin, more smart and timely passes.) They are in serious need of two new younger dangerous strikers. Who will emerge next to take those jobs? 

  11. Kevin Johnson replied, July 28, 2021 at 1:21 p.m.

    One name I haven't seen here or on the pitch is Lynn Williams. Speed and scoring chops. Play her!

  12. Glenn Alpert, July 28, 2021 at 8:23 a.m.

    How many of the current national team players were playing a possession style game in their college years or younger? Doubt very many. How many of these European players have been playing a possession style since they stepped on the field? A lot.

  13. Wayne Norris replied, July 28, 2021 at 9:52 a.m.

    Glenn, good point.

    NCAA soccer has been the development path for US women for years while the same path has passed over by top men's players since Academy's have taken root.

    in Europe men's clubs sponsor and fund women's pro teams in US they are independent in most cases thus cannot afford the same investment.

    Maybe US soccer could fund a professional path for women's NWSL teams now ever those $$ are spent on legal fees on the frivolous law suit. 


    Thus USWNT future much less brights than others...

  14. Robert Ray, July 28, 2021 at 9:30 a.m.

    The current squad has almost NO QUICKNESS and they try and make up for it by being SLOW.  MR is a cancer that the USSF has allowed (even encouraged) to spread.  There are a few bright spots but as a whole this team and USSF is more concerned with trashing the Country (our Flag and Nat'l Song) they are supposed to be representing.  What is happening should NOT surprise anyone!  What should we expect from an organization that allows players to disrespect the national flag & song and then ALLOWS them to wear that flag on their (US Crest) on their jersey and in MR case let them Captain the squad!!!!!  In what other country on this planet could you disrespect the flag & song and still be allowed to represt said nation?  Try pulling that off in Germany, England, Norway, Mexico or Canada!!!

  15. John Bauman, July 28, 2021 at 9:36 a.m.

    I watched both games.  Perhaps if they knew the words to our national anthem and sang it, like all other teams do, they would begin to learn what they are there to do.  It is to make an honorable attempt to do your best for your country.  Self aggrandisement is not why you re there. If you don't believe in the country that sent you there tou shouldn't be there at all.

  16. Kent James, July 28, 2021 at 11:22 a.m.

    The problem is that our players do not stand at attention well enough to salute our flag, and they have the nerve to have opinions which they express that sometimes criticize our perfect nation.  If only they focused on these things they'd win the gold medal, which will now clearly go to North Korea....


    I don't know these players well enough to question their patriotism, but I would venture to guess that playing for the national team is pretty important to them, otherwise they wouldn't make the time and effort. I do know that criticising something is not a demonstration of a lack of love, but shows you care. If criticizing someone means you don't love them, evidently most parents don't love their children (or their spouses).  

    I don't think politics is the reason for the weak performances.  There are a number of factors. Having watched the current team for many years, I like all the players and think they are exceptional players.  But the lack of younger players is certainly the biggest issue, not just for this team but for the future.  A veteran team has it's advantages (there's a reason "rookie mistake" is a thing), but you do need some youth and enthusiasm, to keep the veterans fresh, and that may be a problem for this team.  If there are young players capable of coming in, then the problem is coaching.  If there aren't, that's more of a program problem.

    On the plus side, I would not write this team off.  Everyone has bad games, and the bottom line is the US got through in spite of not playing our best.  This is where you hope veteran leadership will help get the team back on track.  They know they need to improve, and I think they are capable of doing it. But there are no easy games left, and even if they improve, there are no guarantees.  But I have faith in them...

  17. ARISTIDES SASTRE replied, July 29, 2021 at 7:27 a.m.

    Thank you Kent. Finally a comment that makes me sense!

  18. Nick Gabris, July 28, 2021 at 1:16 p.m.

    The worst game I have ever watched the USWNT play. I have been making these comments for a few years that, there needs to be younger players inserted to give them time to get the experience needed. Average age of US players 30+ vs other teams at approx. 20+. As a former player, age does catch up to you. In your mind you can do things that you always have done, but the body does not want to follow.

  19. David HURST replied, July 29, 2021 at 11:37 a.m.

    With all of the criticism no one has said the most obvious, these wonderful WNT players were playing the game their coach sent them onto the field to play.  You have to be pretty blind to not have seen the looks of dispair on their faces as the walked off the field.  I thought the game plan stunk, but I totally admire these players for following their coach's directions. 

  20. Robert Robertson, July 28, 2021 at 1:26 p.m.

    The softball team all stood and they lost - clearly they should have taken a knee. Gymnastic team did not win a gold - should have taken a knee.
    Pleeaassee! 


    The article correctly points out the age of the strikers and of the team in general is no doubt part of the problem. 


    Pay for play, college versus club, etc. along with the Europeans and others giving more support for women's soccer are some of the reasons. 


    The lack of blind nationalism is not the reason for defeat. 


     

  21. Charles Davenport replied, July 28, 2021 at 8:56 p.m.

    I never knew that not singing the national anthem could affect one's playing soccer! Why isn't singing mandatory before all School and club games? At least the school song?
    Speaking of inspiration, how does the women's salary dispute affect their play? Maybe if the USMNT  was paid less, they'd play better?
    But seriously folks, the USWNT isn't the first national team to get too old, nor will it be the last. Actually, I haven't given up on them....the Australia game was an example of "kabuki football"...both teams knew they would advance with a tie, and the game was played accordingly. 
    Fortunately for both teams, there were no spectators in the stadium, who would have booed them off the field about 15 minutes into the 2nd half

  22. ARISTIDES SASTRE replied, July 29, 2021 at 7:29 a.m.

    100% correct.

  23. Johan Aarnio, July 28, 2021 at 1:35 p.m.

    E Velasquez is correct. I wont watch or support purple heads disrespecting our flag. Surprised she's allowed to represent it. 

  24. Dennis Kwiatkowski, July 28, 2021 at 2:28 p.m.

    E Velazquez is absolutely right. MR is a poison on the team. Her play shows it and her lack of respect for the country that gave her the opportunity shows it. Age is catching up with the team. They can still play and win but just can't throw their shoes on the field and expect to win. What they have done is make other countries better now they need to dig deep.

  25. David Lieberman, July 28, 2021 at 4:31 p.m.

    This is part coaching, style of play and the fact that the world is beginning to surpass what the USWNT brings to the pitch. The days of out muscle-ing your opponent is over. If they continue to attempt that tact they will continue to lose the big games. They need finesse, possession, and an attacking style of play that doesn't rely solely on physicality. Perhaps this is the style they've learned from an early age and have come to know and rely on. If that's the case the team is in big trouble moving forward as other countries advance their own styles of play. 

  26. F. Farshad replied, July 28, 2021 at 5:27 p.m.

    Ditto for men's team.  Very frustrating to see US players look great in one moment and amateurish the next.  Which tells me the game is still not instinctual to them. Time to take the gloves off and critique them individually.  AYSO days are done with.  We're talking about professionals now. You don't play if you don't play well. 

  27. David Lieberman, July 28, 2021 at 4:39 p.m.

    And for those who think their performance is an issue of patriotism, you know nothing about the beautiful game.

  28. F. Farshad, July 28, 2021 at 5:16 p.m.

    Frankly the rest of the world has caught up with the US except in concacaf, save for Canada. Beating up on the Mexicos of the  just gives them a false sense of superiority.  The US team has basically been run as a club team as evidenced by the colossal number of caps accumulated by players. Even though a new cycle wasn't started after 2019 the few new players that were brought in were not ready for prime time and the team did not impress recently. So win or lose the new cycle has to start in earnest after these Olympics.  

  29. Mark Landefeld, July 28, 2021 at 5:24 p.m.

    Once the USMNT is well into WC Qualifying, it will be very informative to look at the team development in the 2020-2022 run-up for the men vs the pre-Olympic run-up for the women. 

    Covid19 definitely has played a role in the timing, but Berhalter seems determined to have a USMNT pool that truly pushes each other to get on the field.  

    ... or will we challenge the patriotism of the WNT if they don't medal? -- What a crock!  Too much emphasis on Rapinoe who is a virtual non-entity in terms of game impact.

  30. Kevin Leahy, July 28, 2021 at 5:36 p.m.

    The age of the team was a concern before these games. The coach had time to at least get Macrio more minutes. Rapinoe is toast at this level now. I agree Mewis has also been pretty pedestrian. The strength of Ellis was knowing when to make changes. She did it with Wambaugh in 2015 & Lloyd in 2019. Lloyd is hustling but, aging also affects your timing and precision. This team will be in serious trouble post olympics. They will be able to qualify but, playing in the WC will be very disappointing in 2023. Way too many holes to fill!

  31. Aris Protopapadakis, July 28, 2021 at 6:24 p.m.

    A lot of political venting and baloney that passes for informed criticisism.
    Personally I think they are showing to be too old without new blood but the "newer" blood hasn't fared well either. Macario hasn't shown to be ready when she played.
    We'll see if the old lionesses can rise to the occasion one last time (what is it 3 games). I am not betting on it though...

  32. Charles Davenport, July 28, 2021 at 8:57 p.m.

    I never knew that not singing the national anthem could affect one's playing soccer! Why isn't singing mandatory before all School and club games? At least the school song?
    Speaking of inspiration, how does the women's salary dispute affect their play? Maybe if the USMNT  was paid less, they'd play better?
    But seriously folks, the USWNT isn't the first national team to get too old, nor will it be the last. Actually, I haven't given up on them....the Australia game was an example of "kabuki football"...both teams knew they would advance with a tie, and the game was played accordingly. 
    Fortunately for both teams, there were no spectators in the stadium, who would have booed them off the field about 15 minutes into the 2nd half

  33. R2 Dad, July 28, 2021 at 9:35 p.m.

    I'm wondering what the dressing room atmosphere is like. As we know, fans outside the Nats bubble can only hypothesize what is going on. To me, it looks like the leaders of the team are the old guard (Rapinoe, Lloyd) but they haven't been able to deliver like they did in 2019 and that lack of credibility is hurting team confidence and cohesion. Who is the new Alpha in the squad? Was a new coach going to rotate out the main voices in the dressing room 6 months after he landed? Not likely--you'd need an experienced, top coach to have the huevos to do that and expend all your political capital on that transition. And that was probably not Vlatko's marching orders. The best Vlatko can do is rotate in younger players when/where possible, after having given group stage minutes to the old guard. For all we know, that is his plan. But playing with Lloyd as the target and Ertz as an 8 is the recipe that USED to work--will it work going forward? We have at least one if not 3 more matches for Vlatko to demonstrate he deserves the job going foward in September. Fingers crossed he gets the job done, but does he deserve the job even if he wins? Or does the squad need a proven coach to better manage this transition? 

  34. uffe gustafsson, July 28, 2021 at 9:40 p.m.

    Ok fellow SA readers.
    I signed up and paid to read about soccer.
    not to get an earful of politics in the comments line.
    im fine you don't like rapino or any of the players but leave your politics to yourself. I really don't like some jarhead marine wanna be calling names of USA players or any other female country player not patriotic enough.
    this is not the place to question anyone not patriotic enough.
    santiago please stop it and others as well.
    it's about the game not the perifiol stuff.
    leave the union negotiating to the union to do.
    it's not your place to argue if the union is doing what they do.
    that's America you fight for your rights and compensation to the fullest amount. 
    so let's keep this site to the wonderful sport of soccer.

  35. David Donahue replied, July 29, 2021 at 10:07 a.m.

    "jarhead marine?" Easy dude. Who the hell are you who can't even write in standard English? If I wanted to read stories like yours, I'd teach third grade. If you don't like the topic, move on. We won't miss you. Find another medium.

  36. Bob Ashpole replied, July 29, 2021 at 12:21 p.m.

    David, I can't decide if you are the grammar police or a marine that is offended if a civilian says "jarhead marine". Either way, the politics and lifestyles of the players are off topic here.

    If Uffe stopped posting here, I would miss his comments on the game. 

    This forum is one of the few places on the internet where civil informed conversations about soccer can be found. Let's keep it that way.

  37. uffe gustafsson, July 28, 2021 at 9:40 p.m.

    Ok fellow SA readers.
    I signed up and paid to read about soccer.
    not to get an earful of politics in the comments line.
    im fine you don't like rapino or any of the players but leave your politics to yourself. I really don't like some jarhead marine wanna be calling names of USA players or any other female country player not patriotic enough.
    this is not the place to question anyone not patriotic enough.
    santiago please stop it and others as well.
    it's about the game not the perifiol stuff.
    leave the union negotiating to the union to do.
    it's not your place to argue if the union is doing what they do.
    that's America you fight for your rights and compensation to the fullest amount. 
    so let's keep this site to the wonderful sport of soccer.

  38. Toby Rappolt, July 29, 2021 at 1:28 a.m.

    If this is in fact the day the rest of the world caught us, Anson predicted this could someday happen over 20 years ago. 

  39. frank schoon, July 29, 2021 at 4:08 a.m.

    The way I see it , if you want to protest because in your eyes you don't like what is happening in your country. Then , in good conscious,  don't play for the NT, for that would be a worthy endeavor in expressing one's feelings. Instead, they would prefer to have their cake and eat it,for they like the 'bennies' of playing for the NT. 

    Then, I read the phony ,clever sophistry that one's outward sense of patriotism when standing for the national anthem has no tie to how one plays. We'll, yes, in a way, but one has to look at the total package.  Did anyone notice how all the players of the Italian National reacted to their anthem. They showed a pride and , none displayed a sense of disgust ,like our women, or embarrassment because one of their country men discovered  America, that many in our country are so ashamed of.

    They won the European Cup, by playing good soccer, but they also showed their positive spirit representing their country at the anthem......the TOTAL PACKAGE.

  40. Bob Ashpole replied, July 29, 2021 at 5:36 a.m.

    Frank, the WNT stopped protesting during the National Anthem over 4 years ago.

  41. frank schoon replied, July 29, 2021 at 10:20 a.m.

    You mean they don't kneel anymore?

  42. Bob Ashpole replied, July 29, 2021 at 11:46 a.m.

    Frank, not during the anthem. At the 2020 Olympics there is a 10-second period just prior to kick-off when kneeling to protest racial injustice is allowed. Typically everyone kneels including players of both teams and the officials. It is an exception to the Olympics general ban on political gestures.

    There are some people on social media that lie and say that the US team is kneeling during the national anthem. Some even alter old photos from the She Believes Cup to make it appear that some of the team is kneeling during the 2020 Olympics. 

  43. uffe gustafsson, July 29, 2021 at 5:36 p.m.

    David let's compromise you rewrite my comments into standard English and we are good.
    I looked up the age of USA women compared to the Swedish team and yes many of you are correct.
    most of USA are over 30 years old.
    compared to the Swedish team that's in the mid 20th even an 18 year old that got play time. Sweden have transition to a younger team and USA have not. Though not sure if that made a difference but we will see know when the real tornament starting tonite.

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