The U.S. women's national team settled for a 2-2 draw vs. Colombia in their Olympics group finale, but it emerged as Group G winner in a match that unfolded in an unexpected manner.
Goals on free kicks by Colombia's Catalina Usme book-ended goals by USA's Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh, but the U.S. remained atop the group needing a draw at the minimum to outlast France.
The U.S. had gotten by New Zealand and France to earn the maximum of six points, but Colombia eyed a massive upset to secure advancement after losing all five of its previous meetings against the Americans.
The Colombians took a step in that direction in the 26th minute, as Usme's free kick was fumbled into the U.S. net by Hope Solo. The U.S. goalkeeper seemed to have it lined up, but she had it go off her fingertips and through her legs, much to the delight of the Brazilian crowd in Arena Amazonia.
Dunn equalized for the USA in the 41st minute, though, following up a rebound of a shot saved off the crossbar. Carli Lloyd was vying for her third goal in as many games in Brazil, but Sandra Sepulveda saved her shot off the frame. Dunn hustled and was first to the loose ball, knocking it home with the outside of her right foot.
The USA took the lead through the 18-year-old Pugh, who scored the go-ahead goal in the 59th minute. After receiving a cross from Dunn deep in the Colombia box, she worked her way across from the right and finished from close range with a left-footed strike, becoming the USA's youngest scorer ever in Olympic play.
Usme nearly netted her second for Colombia in the 77th minute, ripping a long-range free kick off the crossbar, but she got her second in the 90th minute. Lining up a free kick from a tight angle, Usme bent a powerful shot above Solo and tucked it inside the far post to deliver the stunning result, one that gave Colombia a famous point to take home after being eliminated.
As for the U.S. lineup, Megan Rapinoe saw her first action of the Olympics for the U.S., her first minutes since tearing her ACL in a U.S. training session in Hawaii in December. She was one of four changes Jill Ellis has made to the U.S. starting XI, but she was replaced after 32 minutes by Pugh, with Ellis opting to work her into the match at the start as opposed to as a second-half substitute.
The U.S. turns its attention to Friday's quarterfinals against a to-be-determined opponent.