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Olympic Women’s Soccer Updates: U.S. and Canada Meet in Semifinal



Current time in Tokyo: Aug. 02, 6:10 p.m.

Rapinoe is keeping her training bib on, for now. So no changes for the U.S. to start the second half.

Megan Rapinoe is the first United States player out after halftime, and she immediately starts a purposeful warmup. Is there a sub coming?

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The United States and Canada are tied, 0-0, at halftime of this Olympic semifinal in steamy Ibaraki Kashima Stadium.

Canada looked like the team in control, moving the ball easily through midfield, largely dictating the rhythm of the game. The Americans, on the other hand, were left to counterattack and never really looked like a threat to score.

The most notable development of the half, then, was the loss of the American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who crumpled to the grass in pain around the 20th minute after landing awkwardly on her right leg and bending it the backward. She was on the ground for about five minutes, and tried to stay in the match.

But when she attempted a goal kick a few minutes later, she immediately grimaced and waved toward the sideline. She left the game in the 30th minute, handing the baton to Adrianna Franch, her backup.

United States goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, the hero of her team’s quarterfinal victory in the Olympic women’s soccer tournament, left the team’s semifinal match against Canada on Monday with a knee injury.

Naeher was injured in an awkward fall while leaping to intercept a Canada cross in the 20th minute. Colliding with teammate Julie Ertz as Canada’s Nichelle Prince raced by both of them on the challenge, Naeher landed with her right leg extended. Her right knee appeared to bend backward as her foot stuck in the turf.

Naeher immediately rolled over in obvious pain, and the game was stopped so she could receive treatment. Lying on her back and then sitting up, she was attended to by two U.S. trainers for about six minutes before deciding to stay in the game.

But about four minutes later, after the United States won a goal kick, Naeher took it and, swinging her right leg hard for the first time, aggravated the injury. She hopped on her landing, realized she could not continue and waved to the bench immediately, calling for a substitute.

Adrianna Franch, who had quickly warmed up while Naeher was being treated initially, sprinted on to take her place.

Naeher left the field by the closest route possible — the end line behind her goal — and then slowly limped her way around the corner flag and back to the United States bench.

By the time she was close enough for her teammates to come out to greet her, Naeher appeared to be wiping away tears with her yellow jersey.

Naeher had been the only U.S. player to play every minute of the Olympic tournament entering Monday, but it was her heroics on Friday, when she made several diving saves and blocked a late penalty kick against the Netherlands, that showed her real value.

She made two more saves in the penalty shootout after the U.S. and the Netherlands played to a 2-2 tie. Her final stop booked the Americans’ ticket to the semifinals.

45’+5 The U.S. wins a corner, which might be the last chance of the half. After some sustained Canada pressure, and the loss of Naeher, it will feel good to play in the Canada half for a bit.

41′ Alex Morgan is on the ground holding her right leg in pain. She and Quinn were charging for a 50-50 ball, and the Canadian swiped a big chunk of Morgan’s shin with a slide tackle. Morgan is back on her feet now, walking gingerly, but seemingly OK.

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31′ Naeher left the field over the end line behind her goal, realizing she’d never make it to Franch for a traditional substitution at midfield. And she appears to be wiping away tears with her jersey as she nears the U.S.W.N.T. bench. You have to think her Olympics are over. Brutal moment for her.

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30′ Adrianna Franch, to be clear, is an outstanding goalkeeper, and might start for all but a handful of teams internationally. Just not her own. But her team needs her now.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

29′ That’s got to be it for Naeher. She took a goal kick and immediately grimaced in pain and began waving toward the sideline. She’s down on one knee. They knocked the ball out of bounds. She’s coming out of the game. Franch is in. That’s a huge loss for the United States, who have come to trust and rely on Naeher in a big way.

26′ And, wow, Naeher is staying in the game! That was about a six-minute break there. But she’s back on her feet. Now we watch and see if she’s at full strength.

25′ Five minutes into the delay here and Naeher is now up and flexing and trying to see if she can continue. If she cannot, it would be a serious blow for the United States.

22′ Ouch! Replays show that U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher came down awkwardly on her right knee, and it bent back the other way. It looked really painful, and she’s still on the ground. Adrianna Franch, the backup, is frantically warming up on the sideline.

20′ Really dangerous cross from Canada there, but Naeher pays the price for meeting it. Under pressure from Prince, she collides with Julie Ertz and goes down in a heap, dropping the ball and forcing a frantic clearance by a teamate. But she really looks like she’s hurting. Trainers out.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

19′ Nichelle Prince of Canada is looking dangerous through the first 20 minutes of this game. She’s caused two or three hold-your-breath moments already with just her speed alone, bursting through the middle of the United States defense. The Americans have evaded trouble each time, but she’s a player to watch.

16′ An absolutely scorched cross from Janine Beckie there is clubbed out at the near post, but Canada has a corner.

7′ Allysha Chapman gets a lecture from the referee, but nothing more, after slapping the ball out of the hands of Tobin Heath, who was trying to take a throw-in. It’s that type of game already.

LIVE 4′ Our first heavy contact of the game comes in quick succession: First Rose Lavelle is pinwheeled on the sideline by Nichelle Prince, winning a free kick. But when the U.S. fires it cross-field, Lindsey Horan gets crunched so hard by Ashley Lawrence from behind that you could hear it up here in the upper deck — the smack of two bodies, and then a scream.

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Horan appears to have the wind knocked out of her, and there’s a brief pause, but we continue.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

1′ Both teams take the knee before kickoff in Kashima. And we’re off.

These teams last met in February at the SheBelieves Cup, and the U.S. dominated play before winning on a late Rose Lavelle goal. But Canada may have been pushed around a bit that night because it didn’t have its two best defenders, Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan. It does today, and it will be a much tougher out because of that.

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Stephanie Labbe making a save for Canada during the penalty shootout against Brazil in the quarterfinal.
Credit…Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Canada, unlike the United States, has not lost a game in the Olympic tournament. But it hasn’t exactly torn through the bracket, either.

Canada finished second in its first-round group, tying Britain (1-1) and Japan (1-1) and beating China (2-1). It then played a scoreless draw against Brazil in the quarterfinals before winning a penalty-kick shootout, 4-3.

The United States had a rougher go in what was, in hindsight, a tougher group: It lost to Sweden (3-0), thumped New Zealand (6-1) and then played a dreary scoreless tie against Australia to finish second in the group. That set up Friday’s World Cup final rematch against the Netherlands, which the Americans won on penalties with an immense debt to goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

Canada has scored only four goals in four games. The United States has eight, which is one fewer than it has had called back for offside.

It’s 80 degrees Fahrenheit and steamy out here at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium, another beautiful venue, another sea of empty seats.

Reminder that the United States is roughly two feet, in the aggregate, from being one of the highest-scoring teams in the Olympic tournament.

Christine Sinclair and Lindsey Horan are teammates on the Portland Thorns, but they’ll be on opposite sides in today’s match.
Credit…Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Canada forward Janine Beckie and United States defender Abby Dahlkemper may collide quite a bit on Monday, but that is hardly new.

Beckie and Dahlkemper play for the English club Manchester City, which until recently also employed Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle. That was until Lavelle joined OL Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League, where her teammates now include Megan Rapinoe and Canada’s Quinn.

But there’s more. Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan and Adrianna Franch, all of the United States, are teammates on the Portland Thorns with Canada’s captain, Christine Sinclair. Canada’s Kailen Sheridan plays with Carli Lloyd in New Jersey, and Erin McLeod is teammates with Alex Morgan in Orlando. Kadeisha Buchanan is a star at Olympique Lyonnais Féminin. But so is Catarina Macario.

On and on it goes.

There are so many connections between the players on the American and Canadian teams, in fact, that it would take a while to find a single player from one side who hasn’t played — at a college, at a club, in a city — with someone on the other side today.

Even their clubs teams are torn.

That means there will be a lot of friendships on the field today, but also a lot of inside knowledge. Tendencies and favorite moves, but also triggers, too.

International soccer routinely puts such relationships under tension, and never more so than today. So expect some handshakes before and after, and some hard tackles in between.

No one wants to go home to the N.W.S.L. and hear about a loss for the rest of the year.

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Canada sends out the same starting XI that faced Brazil in the quarterfinals. Bev Priestman channeling Norman Dale here: “My team’s on the floor.”

The United States has made three changes from the lineup it sent out to face the Netherlands in the quarterfinals: Alex Morgan replaces Carli Lloyd up front, Rose Lavelle swaps in for Sam Mewis in midfield, and Tierna Davidson partners with Becky Sauerbrunn in central defense, with Abby Dahlkemper giving way.

On their face, the changes feel like part of the rotation that the team has employed throughout the tournament. But the insertion of Lavelle, a far more attacking player, for Mewis, and restoring Morgan in a partnership with Tobin Heath and Lynn Williams, suggests a forward-looking approach is coming.

Davidson has been excellent in her appearances, too, and hardly a step down from Dahlkemper, who has had a handful of dodgy moments.

This feels like a team looking to score goals and play on the front foot. That’s what the players prefer, and what the fans prefer. Today, it appears, it is also what Coach Vlatko Andonovski prefers.

Alex Morgan celebrated after scoring the winner against Canada in the 2012 Olympic semifinals.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Canada has faced the United States more times than any other opponent — Monday’s Olympic semifinal will be the 62nd meeting between the teams — and to say the rivalry has been one-sided is an understatement.

The United States has 51 victories in the series. Canada has only three wins. But ask any fans of Canada and they will say that number should be four.

The game in question is the teams’ meeting in the 2012 Olympic semifinals in London, a rollicking 4-3 American victory that, from a United States perspective, stands even today as a signature moment of grit and perseverance. Canadians describe that game — a match they led three separate times — with a different vocabulary. “Robbed” is the most common term. Others are unprintable here.

“We feel like it was taken from us,” the Canadian captain Christine Sinclair said after the game. “We feel cheated.”

Sinclair, Canada’s greatest player, will have felt more aggrieved than most. She scored three times that day in Manchester, England, only to watch the Americans respond each time and then walk off with a last-minute winner by Alex Morgan.

The Canadians have been seething ever since, driven by some dubious refereeing that had led to the tying goal, and a persistent second-class status in the rivalry that, from a Canadian perspective, should have ended that day.

The Americans went on to win the gold in London, and Canada won the bronze, a feat it repeated in Rio. Now it has a chance, again, to rewrite that day in 2012. It has already closed the gap: More than half of the meetings since 2011 have been ties or one-goal American wins.

“In 2012, we were kind of on a hope and on a prayer,” Canada’s Desiree Scott said Sunday. “We were hoping we could get to that match, but now we truly believe in ourselves and what we can do on a soccer pitch, and we believe we can get to that gold medal game.”

The United States will not need to be reminded about that day in 2012. Five Americans — Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Kelley O’Hara, Tobin Heath an Megan Rapinoe — played in it, and every member of the squad knows the danger that Sinclair, a fixture of the National Women’s Soccer League, brings to every match.

“This is probably going to be our hardest game: We know that, and we are preparing for it that way,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said Sunday. “It’s a semifinal — it’s four of the best teams in the world.”

The U.S. women’s soccer team after defeating the Netherlands on Friday.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The International Olympic Committee expanded rosters for the Games, allowing each team to bring four alternates to Tokyo. The decision had roots in the pandemic, and created a bit of wiggle room in case of a coronavirus outbreak in any of the teams.

But when it made the change, the I.O.C. also set the criteria for who would get to call themselves an Olympian, and be eligible for a medal if their team wins one. That right would only go to players who were on an active roster for any game.

The United States made a point of rewarding its alternates during the group stage. Catarina Macario, Jane Campbell and Casey Krueger cleared the bar when they were in the 18-player team against New Zealand, and Lynn Williams did the same against Australia. (Williams, with a goal and an assist against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, has since proved even more valuable.)

Sweden, Canada and Brazil (which was eliminated in the quarters) also have made sure to use all their players. Now they just need to make sure they have a medal to collect.



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