USWNTs Naheer, the heroine, Williams makes use of her likelihood within the Olympic quarter-final victory towards the Dutch

The US women are in the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics after beating the Netherlands in a thrilling back-and-forth that ultimately resulted in a penalty shootout.

– Report: USWNT reaches Olympic semifinals with shootout victory
– Lavelle: Closer has saved us so many times

Whether the win feels like the US has braved the odds may depend on whether you paid more attention to their world rankings or their lackluster performances in the group stage of the tournament. Either way, the Netherlands and the tournament’s top scorer Vivianne Miedema are on their way home and the US will now face Canada for a place in the final on Monday (4am ET).

Here are some of the key takeaways:

Closer is the hero

Without goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, the USWNT would not make it into the Final Four of the Olympic women’s football tournament. Period.

The 33-year-old came under the rules in the 81st minute to fend off a badly executed penalty shot by Lieke Martens, but Naheher really shone in the penalty shoot-out. Taking a shot from the deadly Miedema on the first shot, she immediately gave the USWNT the upper hand, and then saved the Netherlands’ fourth shot from defender Aniek Nouwen to victory.

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For Naher, this could be considered the signature game of her tenure at the USWNT, the game that finally dispelled any doubts that she earned her place in goal as the USWNT starter. After all, Naheher has often played in the shadow of Hope Solo and Brianna Scurry, the two USWNT goalkeepers who stood before her and earned a spot in the conversation of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.

Part of the reluctance of pundits and fans to accept Closer as heir to the position could be because of how she originally got the job. Solo famously said that Sweden played like “a bunch of cowards” at the 2016 Olympics, and after other off-field problems, US Soccer had enough and knocked Solo off the team. Then coach Jill Ellis quickly anointed Naeher as her replacement, even though Naeher only had seven internationals at the time, and Ellis did not deviate from it, even if Naeher did not look quite ready.

The USA were exhausted at the end of a gripping duel with the formidable Dutch, but progressed after a faultless performance on penalties. Francois Nel / Getty Images

Closer is just another goalkeeper than their predecessors and does not fit into the shape of the typical USWNT goalkeeper of the past few years. She doesn’t scream as much in the field and is a more reserved, calm personality off the field. But Naeher has also shown that she doesn’t have to be like everyone else, exudes a calm, cool self-confidence and serenity and now saves penalties at both a World Cup and an Olympics to help the USA move forward.

“Taking one penalty from them during the game was huge, but then giving us two on penalties just made it so easy for us,” said Megan Rapinoe. “Especially if you are the first to compete. It takes the pressure off the team and it was just immense.

The USWNT looked like the USWNT again

If there was a deficiency during the group stage, it was an intangible asset that couldn’t be measured on a statistic sheet: the USWNT just didn’t look like itself. The players lacked confidence and they played shaky, frightened football. That was not the case on Friday, even if it was far from the technical masterclass of the Americans.

Already at the kick-off it was clear: The Americans pressed immediately and won the ball, setting the tone that they would not make it easy for the Netherlands. Even if they looked tired and sometimes struggled to contain the various threats to attack the Netherlands, they kept coming back. Alex Morgan told reporters afterward that if the game had lasted just five minutes longer, she would have been sure the USWNT would have won without a penalty shootout.

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It could be a little worrying that the USWNT was whistled offside on four separate goals against the Dutch, resulting in nine would-be goals for the Americans at those Olympics. That could indicate something is still wrong with the team, but it also likely indicates intransigence and tenacity. When these players start getting their timing right, be careful.

Morgan had said the Olympics would really begin as soon as the knockout phase began, and Rapinoe seemed to share that view on Friday, calling the USWNT’s return inevitable.

“Oh, you’re not surprised, come on,” Rapinoe said to reporters, which led to laughter. “That’s us. This is the knockout round.”

Rapinoe added, “This team just never really gives up, even if we play like s — or play great or are in the middle. We’ll still go out and play as hard as we do.” can.”

When asked whether the USWNT’s performance against the Netherlands was a message, Rose Lavelle replied: “The only ones I believe we are sending a message to are ourselves.”

Nahe was excellent at stopping three penalties, including two on penalties, in what could be their standout for the USWNT in the 120 minutes. Brad Smith / ISI Photos / Getty Images

Andonovski’s game management raises questions after Williams’ breakout

The US coach Vlatko Andonovski has bet on the combination of Carli Lloyd and Lynn Williams, the most experienced strikers in the squad and the least experienced strikers, respectively. That seemed to be intentional; What Lloyd lacks is speed and Williams on the flank could make up for that. Lloyd is an effective pusher, but not that good at getting behind the back lines and stretching them or backtracking defensively.

Williams was, after all, the engine behind the USWNT’s attack on the Netherlands, chasing balls and always doing good service. So it was fitting that she should play a role in both USWNT goals. It was only in the 28th minute that she played around a defender and delivered a cross into the penalty area, which Samantha Mewis only had to deflect with her head. Then, less than two minutes later, Williams shot a loose ball into the net.

But her defensive work was just as important, which made it very strange when Andonovski Williams was in 57th when Williams left the field, she was the USWNT’s best frontline player. Seven minutes later, Andonovski knocked out Tobin Heath for Rapinoe, who also caused some problems for the Dutch defense.

Even before the game reached the 90-minute mark, Press and Rapinoe looked exhausted, unable to press or fall back and defend, and the Netherlands became increasingly dangerous. When the game went into overtime, their legs only got heavier as the Netherlands left the Americans behind at 21:16.

Dutch manager Sarina Wiegman later told the Dutch media that the US was apparently unable to keep up.

“Before the game, it was said that the US was not in good shape – it turned out to be,” she said. “They had problems with our ball circulation. It’s a real shame we didn’t win.”

Andonovski said that as we prepare his line-up and his substitutions, “if we don’t like it, we have to think at least a little about our next opponent, we have to think about penalty shoot-outs, we have to think about different encounters on the field, or how we want to start the game and how we want to end it. “

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He didn’t specifically go into why he was making the substitutions, but Andonovski noted, “The players who came in, you will have noticed, were the four players who actually took the penalties, so that was part of the plan because if they were would start the game, I didn’t know if they would play for 120 minutes. “

Williams is likely to play a big role in the semi-finals against Canada on Friday due to her performance. For a player who originally came to Japan as a substitute before being accepted into the full squad through a rule change, she is sure to make the most of her chances.

Despite a ton of attack threats, the US held on to beating a Dutch team that will be disappointed not getting any further. ANP Sports via Getty Images

A worrying trend along the back line

Andonovski apparently made one of his biggest moves in those Olympics against Australia when he chose not to start center-back Abby Dahlkemper. The US coach said it was part of a rotation plan, but Dahlkemper is a player who would normally be expected to start every game, as it did at the 2019 World Cup, even with lineups rotating a lot between games.

It seemed as if it really was a chance for Dahlkemper to regroup.

She was usually an image of consistency for the Americans, and she posed the twofold risk of being a solid defender and an excellent long-range distributor of the ball. But she looked shaky in the USWNT’s first two group games, couldn’t find any runners in the box, and earned some of the blame for the goals conceded to both Sweden and New Zealand, and she fought the Netherlands again. It was Dahlkemper who failed on the first goal to move up to Miedema, the clinically most successful goalscorer of the entire Olympic tournament – an inexcusable oversight as Miedema set an Olympic record for the most goals scored (eight) in the group stage.

Although the team made it to the semi-finals, there must be growing concern that the USWNT’s full-backs left so many gaps and that one of the USWNT’s center-backs was repeatedly involved.

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