U.S. women get a wakeup call
QINHUANGDAO, China -- Who said amateurism was a dying concept at the Olympics?
The U.S. women's soccer team turned the first five minutes of its Olympic opener against Norway into amateur hour on Wednesday, giving away two goals in a 2-0 loss that raised new questions about the direction of the U.S. women's program. To wit:
"We basically gave them those goals," said U.S. goalkeeper
"I think the first 10 minutes we were a little bit not ready," said midfielder
All is not lost, of course. The U.S. can still qualify for the knockout rounds with positive results in an easy group against Japan and New Zealand. (In this 12-team tournament, even teams that finish third in their four-team group can advance.) For her part, defender
But this was a troubling defeat all the same. With star forward
Yet the U.S. found itself down 2-0 after a shocking first three-and-a-half minutes. In the second minute
To their credit, the U.S. players resisted pointing fingers or concocting excuses afterward. "She played a perfectly placed ball that forced me to make a decision: Come or go?" Solo said of the first Norwegian goal. "I made the decision to come and unfortunately got beat to the ball."
"The second goal was totally my fault," Markgraf said. "I didn't play the ball back hard enough to Hope and I didn't clear the player either ... I definitely didn't help the situation when we were already one down."
While the Yanks recovered to create some second-half scoring chances ("It was a very even match except for those first 10 minutes," Boxx argued), forwards
After the final whistle,
"She said that we had about 17 minutes of good soccer," Solo said. "And we'd better every single one of us find a way to play 90 minutes of good soccer. We're making it tough on ourselves, but we're a winning team and she knows that."
"You always have second chances in the round-robin tournaments," said Markgraf. "So we just have to take care of business, hopefully have great games against Japan and New Zealand and get into the quarterfinals."
At this point what matters isn't which opponent that might be. What matters for the U.S. is simple survival.