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Washington Spirit at the Olympics: USWNT, Sweden through to semifinals

The start of the knockout round was a mixed bag for the Spirit’s Tokyo 2020 quartet

Netherlands v United States: Women’s Football Quarterfinal - Olympics: Day 7 Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The Washington Spirit contingent at Tokyo 2020 was back in action today as the Olympic quarterfinals ended up being full of drama. The USWNT, who just barely got past the Netherlands, were in one of three games that went to extra time, and also one of the three games that saw four or more goals scored.

Elsewhere, we had two Spirit players battling for one place in the semifinal round, so let’s get into how everyone did:

Julia Roddar

Roddar was rotated back out of Sweden’s squad entirely today, one of four players who didn’t dress as the Swedes beat Japan 3-1. Peter Gerhardsson restoring Hanna Glas at right back is no surprise given how well she’s played, but leaving Roddar out entirely after getting her into two of three group stage games perhaps tips us off on her spot within Sweden’s hierarchy. They trust her to play if needed, but there are players clearly ahead of her in their best 11.

Moving on to the semifinal, Sweden will face Australia in Yokohama on Monday at 7:00am Eastern. Australia went through in a match-of-the-tournament contender (which is saying something after how wild Group F was) that saw them beat Great Britain 4-3. The Matildas were outplayed early but took a 1-0 lead, then fell behind 2-1 only to force extra time with an 89th minute Sam Kerr goal. From there, Mary Fowler scored a wondergoal, and then Kerr struck again, and despite Ellen White completing a hat trick late, the Aussies held on.

Saori Takarada

Takarada, after starting Japan’s 1-0 win over Chile, was rotated back to the bench for today’s quarterfinal against Sweden. Asako Takakura has pretty clearly shown that she sees Takarada as her third center back option, and sure enough turned to Moeka Minami alongside Saki Kumagai for this game.

Unfortunately, the way this one played out meant no opportunity for Takarada to get on the field, as Japan never needed to make a defensive move. Sweden took an early lead, and though Japan did very well to equalize, the Swedes came out for the second half and once again took a quick lead. That goal appeared to really swing things their way, and in the end Sweden won 3-1.

The loss eliminates Japan, which means Takarada will return to the Spirit soon. It’s not clear at this point what that means in practical terms, as there are both physical and emotional concerns for all players returning to league play so quickly after what is a grueling tournament.

Kelley O’Hara

O’Hara unsurprisingly started at right back, playing the full 120 minutes as the USWNT got past the Netherlands on penalties. It wasn’t her best performance though, as she was deceived by Vivianne Miedema on the first goal, and conceded a penalty kick late in the game. However, that set the stage for Alyssa Naeher to start a heroic recovery from her own error (letting in a soft second Dutch goal), as the Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper saved Lieke Martens’ poorly-taken spot kick to keep the USWNT alive, and then saved two more penalties in the shootout.

That might explain O’Hara’s exuberant celebration with Naeher after the game:

It stands to reason that O’Hara might be rotated out in the semifinal after playing 210 total minutes in three days, especially with the U.S. getting just barely over 66 hours before they have to go again. However, we’ve seen her dig deep before and play on short rest, so don’t write her out of the lineup for Monday’s game just yet.

Emily Sonnett

Sonnett made the bench, and was in fact the only defender in the 18 due to Tierna Davidson and Casey Krueger both being left out. However, Andonovski opted to hold her (and Kristie Mewis, his other unused field player sub) out in a game where both teams looked like they had run out of gas for the final 45-50 minutes.

However, with the USWNT surviving, the likelihood of Sonnett starting in the semifinals seems very high. Her versatility means she’s an option at multiple positions, and so many players are going to be short of the energy required to be at their best in a semifinal. That said, the most likely rotation choice would be her for O’Hara at right back.

We’ll find out whether that proves to be the case as the USWNT will face Canada on Monday at 4:00am Eastern in Kashima for a spot in the gold medal game. Canada went 120 scoreless minutes (despite plenty of chances both ways), before former Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé saved two penalties to see them past Brazil 4-3 in the tiebreaker.