The United States Women’s Soccer Team Is Suffering From A World Cup Hangover

by liveworldcupodds | Posted on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021

The US women’s soccer team has a history of performing best while facing adversity. After failing to win the World Cup four times, the Americans captured the Olympic gold medal the following year. And, following their lowest finish in a major competition — a quarterfinal loss to Sweden at the 2016 Rio Olympics — they rallied and put on arguably their most dominant World Cup performance to date, going undefeated in 2019. 1

The United States had no doubts about its capacity to win gold at this year’s Tokyo Olympics. This team was as powerful as ever in the most recent big competition, and the 2021 version is essentially a carryover from the 2019 World Cup. Except for midfielder Kristie Mewis, 17 of the 18 players on the Olympic roster competed in France two years ago. Those players have averaged 111 international appearances, with 80 caps per player heading into the 2019 World Cup.

Surprisingly, retaining World Cup title rosters hasn’t always been a winning formula. The Americans maintained the vast bulk of their squad together both times they competed in the Olympics the year after winning the World Cup – 15 of 18 players in 2000 and 14 of 18 in 2016. Those teams struggled at the Olympics, losing in the gold-medal match in 2000 and the disappointing quarterfinal against Sweden in 2016. In summary, when the Americans are coming off a world title, they are 0-for-2 on Olympic gold medals but 4-for-4 when they aren’t.

After three games, the United States is still hoping to avoid the horrible history of teams attempting to follow World Cup triumphs with gold medals – every prior World Cup winner, not just the United States, has failed. The Americans’ 1-1-1 record in the group stage is their poorest in a significant event, but they will face the Netherlands in a Friday quarterfinal, the 2019 World Cup final rematch. Even after a shaky start to the Olympics, they’d have to be considered one of the most dangerous teams left in the knockout round. After a group stage win over New Zealand, defender Crystal Dunn observed, “We know we don’t go from being a fantastic team two days ago to not being a great squad anymore.”

The United States’ Olympic competition got off to a disastrous start with a 3-0 loss to Sweden in the first game. The Americans enjoyed a slim advantage in possession (52 percent to 48 percent), mustered only five shots on target out of a total of 13 (Sweden had nine and 17, respectively), and conceded nine corner kicks. Despite using all five strikers from the 2019 World Cup run — Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, and Carli Lloyd — they could not mount a sustained onslaught. Rapinoe later told reporters, “We had our asses kicked a little bit.” “There are a lot of things we can clean up – the first one is trapping the ball and passing it to your team.”

Sweden, also led by Hedvig Lindahl in goal and Stina Blackstenius in the final third, faced the United States in the 2019 World Cup group stage. However, the Americans triumphed 2-0 in that encounter. It’s perplexing that such a similar group of players could appear so dissimilar following a world title — even if it was two years later due to the pandemic-affected schedule.

With an average age of 30.8 years, Team USA is older this time around, and it has significant injury concerns, particularly with Heath and Julie Ertz.

2 The experienced players on this year’s team, on the other hand, had given new coach Vlatko Andonovski little reason to change them on the way to Tokyo.

Since the 2019 World Cup, the Americans have gone 26-0-2, scoring 92 goals and allowed only five. Only South Korea (in a friendly on Oct. 6, 2019) and Sweden (in a close on April 10) managed draws against the United States throughout that time. And the stars of 2019 are still among the best performers in the United States. Lloyd, 39, had two goals and two assists in the last five warm-up games leading up to the tournament, and Heath had a goal in each of the final two friendlies.

The United States entered this tournament on a 44-match winning streak, and anything short of gold in Tokyo would be a letdown. However, Lloyd’s remarks following the 2016 Olympics defeat were instructive: “It’s difficult to go back to back – that’s why no one has done it.” It is regrettable. We had the ability. We were having a good time. That’s how soccer can be at times.”

The Americans still have a lot of opportunities. But, after such a dominant World Cup, if they fall short again in the next ten days, they’ll add another chapter to their erratic Olympic past. And by 2023, the world’s most powerful soccer nation may once again have much to prove.

About the Author