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USWNT outlasts Netherlands in penalty shootout for Olympic semifinal berth

USWNT outlasts Netherlands in penalty shootout for Olympic semifinal berth
Posted at 6:59 AM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 11:42:27-04

Facing the threat of a second consecutive quarterfinal exit at an Olympic Games on penalty kicks, the United States women's national team executed a near-flawless shootout to shake off a worthy Dutch side and reach the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics.

The U.S. scored on all four of its kicks from the spot as goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher delivered two key saves to prevail in the shootout, 4-2. Megan Rapinoe buried the deciding penalty into the top corner to send the U.S. through.

In a rematch of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup final — which the U.S. also won, a thrilling 90 minutes ended in a dead heat at 2-2 inside Yokohama Stadium.

The Americans matched a brace by Dutch star Vivianne Miedema with goals from Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams. Williams, who assisted Mewis' goal before scoring her own, rewarded USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski's decision to give her the surprise start over Christen Press on the right wing. 

The two international women's soccer heavyweights traded blows throughout an evenly-matched affair. The United States came agonizingly close to grabbing the lead in both the second half and in extra time, putting the ball in the Dutch net on multiple occasions only to be denied by the offside flag. The U.S. has had a staggering total of nine goals disallowed across four matches in the Olympic tournament.

The Netherlands had excellent chances of their own to take a late lead, but Naeher produced timely saves — including on a Lieke Martens penalty in the second half — to keep the match level and force the spot kicks.

The penalty shootout was the USWNT's first in major tournament competition since falling to Sweden from the spot in the quarterfinals of the Rio 2016 Olympics. Alex Morgan and Press missed penalties while Hope Solo, the U.S. goalkeeper at the time, save just one.

In Yokohama Friday night, both Morgan and Press scored their penalties and Naeher — Team USA's first-choice goalkeeper since Solo retired following a suspension in 2016 — denied the Dutch twice.

The U.S. will take on Canada in an all-North America semifinal Monday at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium. Canada also emerged from the quarterfinals via penalty shootout, escaping a goalless draw against Brazil with the 4-3 edge from the spot.