Alyssa Naeher's penalty saves help lead USWNT to Olympic semifinals

Alyssa Naeher's penalty saves help lead USWNT to Olympic semifinals

U.S. Women's National Team

Alyssa Naeher's penalty saves help lead USWNT to Olympic semifinals

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The U.S. women’s national team’s hunt for an Olympic gold medal is still on.

Friday’s dramatic penalty shootout win over the Netherlands went a long way in erasing some of the doubt cast by a humdrum group-stage effort.

Alyssa Naeher was the hero on the day, making three penalty saves in the game, first in the 81st minute to keep the Americans from falling regulation, then two more saves in the penalty shootout.

Naeher’s teammates did the rest, converting all four of their shootout penalties, capped by Megan Rapinoe’s emphatic clincher to secure the USWNT’s place in Monday’s Olympic semifinal against Canada.

 

The USWNT’s penalty shootout triumph capped a dramatic back-and-forth encounter in the rematch of the 2019 World Cup final. The Dutch struck first, through star striker Vivienne Miedema, in the 18th minute against the run of play. The USWNT responded, as Lynn Williams played creator, setting up a Sam Mewis equalizer in what was Williams’ first Olympic start.

Seconds later, Williams found a goal of her own to give the Americans the lead:

Several threatening chances went by, including a handful of razor-thin offside calls.

Ultimately, the long way had to be taken. Things unraveled for the United States in the second half and the Dutch had every reason to believe they would be walking away as the winners.

Miedema’s 54th-minute equalizer set the stage for a wild finish, with the Dutch having a chance to take the lead late in regulation when Kelley O’Hara was whistled for a penalty foul.

Naeher made sure that didn’t happen though, stopping Lieke Martens’ subsequent penalty to keep the match tied, sending it to overtime.

 

Extra time was largely uneventful as both teams were clearly fighting through fatigue in the sweltering Yokohama weather.

Rose Lavelle, Alex Morgan and Christen Press all converted their penalty shootout attempts before Megan Rapinoe’s fearless clincher, ensuring that Naeher’s heroics didn’t go to waste, and setting up yet another Olympic showdown with familiar foe Canada, on Monday.

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