The site of the final group match for the USWNT took place in the Brazilian city of Manaus. After their 1-0 victory over France in Belo Horizonte on Saturday the team was assured of a place in the quarterfinals of the Olympic soccer tournament. Needing only a draw to win the group, manager Jill Ellis had ability to rest some of her more important players to ensure they were as fresh as possible for the next round.
The match against Columbia took place without five of the usual starters. Defenders Julie Johnston, and Meghan Klingenberg, midfielders Tobin Heath, Allie Long, and forward Alex Morgan were all rested for parts of the match, although Long and Morgan made appearances in the second half. In their place were Whitney Engen, Ali Krieger, Lindsey Horan, Megan Rapinoe, and Christen Press.
The early part of the game was spent in the Columbian’s defensive half until a rash challenge by Megan Rapinoe brought a free kick just outside the American 18 yard box. Columbia capitalized on this opportunity by putting the ball between Hope Solo’s legs and into the back of the net to give Columbia their first ever goal in the Olympics as well as their first goal against the United States.
Less than 10 minutes later Rapinoe was taken off in a pre-planned substitution and 18-year-old Mallory Pugh was put into the match. With her ability to play both wings, Pugh was able to interchange with Chrystal Dunn to cause some extra confusion for the Columbian defense. This confusion led to Dunn’s goal where she was left unmarked on the back post after a shot by Carli Lloyd ricochet into the 6-yard box. The American’s found this equalizer mere minutes before halftime to give some hope to the team going into the break.
Out of the locker-room Jill Ellis made her second of three subs by taking captain Carli Lloyd off in favor of forward Alex Morgan. This helped the team pile on the pressure which was eventually capped off when Dunn sent in a cross from the left side. First half sub Mallory Pugh found herself on the ball before she cut along the top of the 6-yard box and fired home the go-ahead goal. With that goal she became the youngest player in USWNT history to score at the Olympics.
The rest of the game featured mostly possession by the Americans, with a few counter-attacking opportunities for the Columbians. In the 90th minute Kelley O’Hara made a reckless tackle deep in the defensive half which led to another dangerous free kick opportunity for Columbia. When the ball was struck, Solo appeared to be cheating towards a cross rather than a shot and that led to her being out of position as she watched the ball sail into the net for a late equalizer.
Despite Hope Solo’s shocking struggles, missed opportunities were the biggest story of the game as the Americans had countless chances in the offensive zone that resulted in goal kicks and one could wonder how different the outcome would have been if some of those chances had been put home. In the end it did not matter as the Americans are through to the Quarterfinals as the champions of their group.