Carli Lloyd Becomes USA’s Top Scorer Ever As USWNT Wins Olympic Bronze
The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) hit their stride Thursday night at the Olympics and defeated Australia 4-3 to claim the bronze medal.
“We really didn’t play well the entire tournament and we finally put it together tonight. I’m just bursting with pride for this team,” Megan Rapinoe said after the game, which was held at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium, roughly 90 minutes outside of Tokyo. “We knew all of us had another level to what we showed in this tournament. Nobody was anywhere near satisfied with their play and certainly not us up front and in midfield.
“Everyone just played so big. It was a fun game to play in and I feel like we got to be ourselves today.”
The high-stakes game came after the USWNT surprisingly lost in their opening game against Sweden, and then lost again to Canada in the Olympic semi-finals. “I feel like we haven’t had our joy,” Rapinoe said to the media Monday.
They found it on Thursday, as veterans Rapinoe, 36, and Carli Lloyd, 39, scored two goals each to put the Americans over the top. They did it in style, too.
Rapinoe opened up scoring in the eighth minute with a rare Olimpico—a goal scored on an angle from a corner kick—and scored again in the 21st minute. Lloyd, already the oldest goalscorer in USWNT history, scored in the 45th and 51st minutes. With her 10 career goals at the Games, Lloyd became Team USA’s leading scorer at the Olympics, surpassing Abby Wambach, according to U.S. Soccer.
The Tokyo Olympics were a tough tournament for Team USA, who entered Japan as the reigning World Cup champions and gold medal favorites. Instead, under first-year head coach Vlatko Andonovski, they failed to make the final for a second straight Olympics.
They were shut out 3-0 by Sweden in the opening match, ending a 44-game unbeaten streak. Their semi-final loss was their first defeat by Canada since 2001.
Even Thursday’s return to grace was not without error. The Americans were up 4-1 just after halftime, with the lone Australian goal by Sam Kerr, and appeared to have the bronze medal locked up. But then Australia’s Caitlin Foord scored on a header and Emily Gielnik scored again at the 90-minute mark, and suddenly the score was 4-3 with four minutes left and the Australians rolling with momentum.
But it wasn’t enough. The Americans were able to hold them off and secure the bronze, their sixth Olympic medal.
The gutsy goals and change in mentality were due in part to a players-only team meeting called by Rapinoe and Lloyd after the heartbreaking semi-final loss. According to the Washington Post, Lloyd said part of the problem might have been complacency.
“At the end of the day, it’s about a mentality that this team has had forever,” Lloyd said to the outlet. “We may look like the most talented team on paper… but as we all know, talent doesn’t win you championships. And without the mentality, without the heart, the grit, the fight, we won’t win anything.”
Tokyo may likely be the final Olympic tournament for both Rapinoe and Lloyd. Although neither has made an official announcement about retirement, Lloyd said she approached the bronze medal match as if it were her last tournament with the national team.
“I think that I’ve had a different mind-set going into this one,” Lloyd said to the media after the match. “No, I haven’t made any official announcement yet, but obviously I am at the tail end of my career. Physically, I feel really good, but at some point, you have to hang up the boots and live life—I know my husband has been eagerly waiting for me to switch off, because it’s been 17 years of just grinding away.
“So yeah, I took it in, I think that the drive over to the game was different. I was just thinking about a lot of things. Just wanted to do everything possible to help this team win a medal…This is a medal. It’s a different color, but we’re going home with that medal, and it’s really special.”
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