Women still winning: USWNT qualifies for the 2020 Olympics

Jamie+Smed+%7C+Flickr

Jamie Smed | Flickr

Jenna Jarrah

The U.S. women’s soccer team beat Mexico 4-0 in Carson, California on Friday night, earning them a place in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 

This feat keeps their record qualified for every major tournament. 

Samantha Mewis and Rose Lavelle scored two goals in the first 14 minutes, to which Mewis added a brace. 

Substitute Christen Press added to the onslaught in the 72nd minute—five minutes after she entered the game —ending in a victory for the U.S. team. 

Though they qualified, the road ahead for the USWNT does not look easy. 

They must form an 18-person team, which is down from the 23-player squad they boasted at the 2019 World Cup. 

Second, if they win at the 2020 Olympics this summer, the United States will become the first nation to hold a World Cup title followed by an Olympic title the next year. 

Seeing that the 2016 team came up short in the Olympics, the pressure for the 2020 team is higher than ever. 

In Rio, where the 2016 Olympics were held, the United States unexpectedly lost to Sweden in a quarterfinal shootout. 

It was the first time the Americans were not able to reach an Olympic final. 

“I remember not leaving the field for a long time,” Crystal Dunn, who plays as a defender on the U.S. team said last fall. “The tears couldn’t come out of my eyes because I didn’t even want to believe that we were knocked out of the tournament.”

“We had to bring it in for a huddle. And I can’t even remember the words that were said in the huddle because nobody was probably listening. Everybody was like, there’s nothing that could be said that’s going to make this moment feel any better than it is right now,” the defender remembered. 

“We know the pain that we felt in that moment. And since then we have worked so hard to never have that feeling ever again,” Dunn recounted. 

Julie Ertz, who earned the title of “U.S. Soccer Player of the Year” after last summer’s World Cup triumph, echoed Dunn’s sentiments.

“If it wasn’t for 2016,” she said, “I don’t know if I’d be on the podium in 2019.”

Fortunately, it looks like the women’s team took that defeat and turned it into positive energy and motivation, allowing them to win the World Cup back to back in both 2015 and 2019. 

Their recent win against Mexico atones for that humbling experience in Rio. 

The United States moved on to face Canada, who claimed the other spot in the Tokyo Games with a 1-0 win against Costa Rica, in the championship game of CONCACAF’s Olympic Qualifiers. 

In the final game, the U.S. faced off with Canada in the qualifying final where they won 3-0. 

The game was surprisingly scoreless at halftime, putting extreme pressure on the fierce rivals. 

Then in an 11-minute window, the floodgates finally opened for the Stars and Stripes as the United States. took advantage of a few errors made by the Canadian team and scored two of the three goals. 

“Scoring first is important in every game, especially against Canada,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said after the game. “Like I said, in the first half, throughout the whole game, they were very organized and very disciplined. It’s one of the best teams in the world. Top 10 team in the world, it’s not going to be easy.

Andonovski also addressed the playstyle and intensity of the World Champions, adding, “the first half, we were not patient enough, not sharp enough, but the second half, we came out with a little more energy.” 

“We moved the ball a little faster and our rotations were a little bit clearer and more precise, which resulted in the goal and once we scored the first, I felt pretty comfortable we were going to score another one,” the coach remarked.

As for the third goal, the U.S. used their superior talent to their advantage, scoring a “team goal.”

The win improves the U.S. record against Canada, as this marks the 50th time the United States has defeated their North American rivals. 

In his first competitive tournament, coach Andonovski is very thrilled to be qualifying for Tokyo. 

“It’s exciting,” Andonovski said. “It’s very important for a team that just won two World Cups back to back, that those emotions and that motivation is something that’s the hardest to get back up again.”

 “I was just glad to see that the emotions are there, that the motivation is there to make it happen. We are moving in the right direction and I’m very happy with the stage we are at,” Andonovski said.