USWNT narrowly squeaks into knockout rounds with a tie

USWNT's Kelley O'Hara battles Australia's Steph Catley at Tokyo Olympics (Photo by SHINJI AKAGI/AFP via Getty Images)
USWNT's Kelley O'Hara battles Australia's Steph Catley at Tokyo Olympics (Photo by SHINJI AKAGI/AFP via Getty Images) /
USWNT’s Kelley O’Hara battles Australia’s Steph Catley at Tokyo Olympics (Photo by SHINJI AKAGI/AFP via Getty Images) /

The USWNT advances despite another subpar performance.

Where’s the high-press? Where are the crisp, clean passing combos? Where’s the intensity, fire, and grit? Once again I find myself being less than enthused by the USWNT’s performance.

On Tuesday, the USWNT took on a talented Australian side led by captain and superstar Sam Kerr. With both teams fighting to advance to the knockout stages, it was anticipated that the game would be a 90-minute battle.

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What I saw was an Australian side that had the upper hand in the first half and a United States side that made me increasingly unsure they have what it takes to bring home a gold medal.

In fairness to the USWNT, they should have been up 1-0 heading into halftime after a beautiful cross from Kelley O’Hara found Alex Morgan’s head. After a nail-biting wait for a VAR decision, the goal was called offsides seemingly by mere millimeters. It was a harsh decision and one that certainly helped keep Australia in the game.

The USWNT also managed to hold Sam Kerr at bay, which should be acknowledged as a major accomplishment. That being said, Australia had their own chances, one of which rebounded off the crossbar, and they dominated first-half possession.

The second half was entirely uneventful and as it got closer to full time it looked as though the USWNT was playing for the tie knowing they would advance on goal differential. It’s not the way a world champion squad should be advancing to the quarterfinals, but they did enough to get there and, in the end, that’s what counts.

Heading into the knockout rounds, the USWNT will face the Netherlands in what is sure to be an intensely competitive match. This matchup is a repeat of the 2019 World Cup finals in which the USWNT was crowned world champions after a 2-0 victory.

A mind-boggling 21 goals in three Olympic matches has led the Netherlands to the top of Group F, clinching the top spot over Brazil thanks to goal differential. They’re in fine form heading into the quarterfinals against the USWNT.

What exactly does the USWNT need to do differently?

Everything. Cleaner passes, more urgency in attack, more clinical finishing, more organized defense, more patience on the ball. Like I said, everything.

I expect a lot out of a team with so much talent and so much experience at major international competitions, but so far they’ve failed to deliver. Tuesday’s match should have been played with the intensity of an Olympic final. After all, it would have only taken one misstep to send the US packing.

Next. USWNT convincingly defeated in game one. dark

The USWNT is like the brilliantly smart child who forgets to turn in the homework and doesn’t study for the exams, but aces them anyway and walks away with a C in the class. This is why I’m particularly aggravated by the USWNT at these Olympics. They’re averaging a C performance when they have the talent and leadership to be an A+ team. Here’s hoping they put in the work against the Netherlands.