Women's soccer: Colombia's late equalizer stuns U.S.
Manaus, Brazil — In the first few moments Hope Solo had to reflect following the U.S. team’s 2-2 draw with Colombia on Tuesday, she already had perspective on the two goals that Catalina Usme got past her.
“I’ve been around the game long enough to know that it’s part of the position,” Solo said. “I don’t wish it on anybody. Being a goalkeeper is extremely difficult. But I’ve been around long enough to know that these things do happen, they’ve happened to me before.
“You just hope that they happen few and far between.”
The draw, while disappointing, did not have much impact on the defending Olympic champions. The United States still emerged at the top of Group G and will play in the quarterfinals.
Usme beat Solo with a pair of free kicks. The first, in the 26th minute, was Colombia’s first ever Olympic goal, and first ever goal against the United States.
The second came from a tight angle as time ran out.
“I have also learned to have a short-term memory,” Solo said. “So I’m just going to put this behind me and move on, because there’s going to be some great football in the coming games and I’m going to have to come up big and keep our team in it.”
At 18, Mallory Pugh became the youngest player to score for the United States in an Olympics with her goal in the 59th minute, giving the Americans a 2-1 lead. Olympic newcomer Crystal Dunn also scored.
The U.S. women’s team, the reigning World Cup champions, is vying for its fourth straight Olympic gold medal.
“It is what it is,” United States captain Carli Lloyd said. “I’d rather two goals get let in like that in this game, than in a quarterfinal, a semifinal or a final match. Do we all know that we can play a lot better? Of course. But we met our objective and it’s important to stay positive and take what we can out of these games.”
Pugh came into the game as a first-half substitute for midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who played in her first match since having ACL surgery in December.
In addition to Rapinoe, United States coach Jill Ellis made several other changes to her starting lineup, sitting regular starters Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Meghan Klingenberg. Julie Johnston, who sat out the second game with groin injury, was also on the bench.
Morgan came in after the half for Lloyd. Pugh, who hurt her ankle in the 2-0 opening win against New Zealand, went in when Rapinoe was pulled in the 33rd minute as temperatures hovered in the upper 80s.
“I felt really good,” Rapinoe said. “A little rusty in certain moments. I still have to get that game fitness back, but overall I felt really good.”
The match in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest was an announced sellout, with many fans awaiting the late game between host Brazil and South Africa. The crowd was on the side of the underdog Colombians from the start and cheered wildly when Usme scored her first goal. The free kick bounced between Solo’s legs.
The fans also taunted Solo by chanting “Zika! Zika!” The jeers have accompanied the U.S. goalkeeper throughout the Olympic tournament because of posts she made on social media about the virus that is spread by mosquitoes.
Usme’s goals were just the fifth and sixth that Solo has allowed this year. The veteran goalkeeper, who has a record 102 shutouts in international play, had not allowed a goal in the first two Olympic matches.
“The most important thing for me is not the goals or the making history,” Usme said. “The most important thing is the teamwork.”
Dunn, playing in her first Olympics with the national team, tied the match with a rebound after Lloyd’s shot bounced off the crossbar in the 41st minute. Pugh’s goal slid between numerous Colombia players before finding the back of the net in the second half and it looked as if the Americans might escape Manaus with a win.
Colombia had already been eliminated from the Olympics with losses in its first two matches. On Monday, coach Fabian Taborda said Usme had an injured left knee, while Lady Andrade and Carolina Arias were suffering from “exhaustion.” But all three started.
Colombia is considered one of South America’s top teams, along with neighboring Brazil. Las Cafeteras, as they’re known, surprised many when they advanced to the knockout round in the World Cup last year.
The Amazonia Arena was built for the men’s World Cup in 2014. Since then, the stadium has seen few big events, except for some lower-division soccer matches and religious events, until the Olympics.
The crowd of more than 42,000, unheard of for a women’s match in Brazil, was electric when the home team took the field in the late match. Many in the crowd sported No. 10 jerseys, a nod to five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta.
In other matches Tuesday, the final day of group play, Melissa Tancredi scored both goals as Canada defeated Germany 2-1 in Brasilia.
The 10th-ranked Canadians will face No. 3 France in a quarterfinal match in Sao Paulo on Friday. Les Bleus defeated New Zealand 3-0 in Salvador on Tuesday.
Michelle Heyman scored twice as Australia defeated Zimbabwe 6-1 in Salvador. With the win, the Matildas are assured a spot in the quarterfinals. Zimbabwe was already eliminated.
The late games would determine the other quarterfinal matchups.