The Tokyo Olympics are over as far as women’s soccer is concerned, and the Washington Spirit ended up seeing three players on the medal stand. Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett both took home bronze with the USWNT, while Julia Roddar and Sweden came so close to a gold, only to end up silver medalists as Canada stunned them on penalty kicks earlier today.
Here’s how the final games went for the Spirit’s last three Olympians, and a note on how soon we might see each of them back in action in the NWSL:
O’Hara, in a development that is perhaps not all that surprising, ended up going the full 90 in the bronze medal game at right back. She took a painful knock in the 83rd minute, and appeared likely to be substituted, but instead played through it and seemed to be moving fine once play resumed.
This final game was probably her most dangerous as an attacking threat, as the USWNT gave both her and Crystal Dunn more freedom to get forward regularly. O’Hara had a couple dangerous crosses, and was also involved in some other moves that created openings in what turned out to be a wild 4-3 win over Australia.
In the end, O’Hara played 470 minutes in a 15-day span, starting five games, and it’s an unknown exactly how long she’ll need to recuperate. Richie Burke told reporters today that vaccinated players have to undergo a 24-hour NWSL-mandated isolation after international travel to be sure they don’t contract Covid-19 on their trips back, and that the team is going to give everyone time to visit family and settle back into life on this side of the international date line.
The Spirit’s plan seems to be to not expect O’Hara back for the Houston game on August 13, but that either Orlando on the 22nd or North Carolina on the 29th are distinct possibilities at this point.
Sonnett came in for the final five minutes plus a lengthy stoppage time period, but we got a surprise in terms of where she played. She replaced Christen Press and communicated to the players that the USWNT was moving to a 541 to see their late lead out, but the move wasn’t to play Sonnett as the fifth defender. Instead, Julie Ertz dropped between Becky Sauerbrunn and Tierna Davidson.
So, okay, a run-out as a defensive midfielder? No. Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle stayed central in the line of four in the midfield. Sonnett ended up playing right midfield in this 541, and in fact was in the corner trying to kill some clock moments after entering the game.
Sonnett finished the tournament with two appearances and 95 minutes played. It’s unclear how long she’ll need to recover from the tournament, but we might see her on the field with the Spirit somewhat sooner than O’Hara as a result of not having so many minutes in a hot, brutally-scheduled tournament on the other side of the world.
Roddar was not in uniform as Sweden suffered some heartbreak in the gold medal game, letting a lead slip away against Canada before falling on penalties. It was a harsh result for Sweden, who like the USWNT had effectively kept Canada from getting out of their own half for much of the first hour (and unlike the USWNT, had a lead), but another VAR penalty kick was enough for Canada to draw level.
With fatigue a major factor in extra time, Canada got to penalties, where former Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé emerged as the star of the final, allowing Canada to overcome three straight misses at one point to win the tiebreaker 3-2 after six rounds.
Still, battling her way into the squad was a big achievement for Roddar, who ended up making two appearances in the group stage and will receive a silver medal. That makes her the only NWSL player to get a silver at these Olympics, as Sweden’s roster is otherwise entirely made up of players based in Europe.
As with the USWNT players, it sounds like the Spirit plan to give Roddar some time to process the tournament on the physical and mental side while she reacclimates to the day-to-day of club soccer, so we probably won’t see her in uniform for the next couple of games at the least.
Richie Burke told reporters today that Takarada has “been great” in training this week after clearing Covid-19 protocols. “She’s good to go,” said Burke, which was later backed up by an injury report that didn’t list her at all.
As such, it seems likely that she’ll at least be in uniform tomorrow against Portland. It will be interesting to see how the Spirit approach the situation, as they had previously established that they see Takarada primarily as a wide attacking player (unlike Japan, who used her as a center back in the Olympics). Right now, though, Washington is without the other three Olympians as well as dealing with an apparently minor knock for Tegan McGrady.
That shortage may see Takarada in line for at least a couple more appearances as a defender for the time being, though in this case it would be more likely as a fullback. We’ll learn more about her status tomorrow, but don’t be surprised if she’s in the squad and gets into this match against the Thorns.