Americans ousted: Sweden beats United States in penalty kicks

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by TOM SLATER

The United States will look back on this Rio 2016 quarterfinal match versus Sweden and shake their collective heads, lamenting chances that were never converted.

In a marathon contest, Sweden defeated the United States in penalty kicks, 4-3, after a 1-1 draw in regulation and overtime.

In the penalty kick shootout, Alex Morgan had one saved and Christen Press skied an attempt. Hope Solo could only save one as the Swedes, coached by former United States boss Pia Sundhage, made the rest.

And oh, how Sundhage must have loved it. Since leaving the United States a few years ago, her Sweden side has never lost to the Americans.  And this one might have been the sweetest for the Swedish coach and most devastating for the United States.

The loss not only denied the American side of becoming the first team to win an Olympic gold medal following a World Cup championship, it means for the first time the United States won’t medal in the Olympics. Since women’s soccer became an Olympic Sport in 1996, the United States have won four gold medals and a silver.

For most of the game, the United States had an overwhelming amount of chances but couldn’t convert. In the opening 45 minutes, especially, the Americans were pushing both Meghan Klingenberg and Kelley O’Hara up from the back into the attack. Morgan Brian, usually set in the middle of the field, was getting tucked in on both the left and right side of the seam.

But Sundhage seemed to be okay with that. Sweden was content to hang back, take the best punches the Americans could give and counter attack. Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl had two key saves in the first half. She punched out a blast by Brian in the first few minutes and then got a hand on a shot from Carli Lloyd halfway through the opening half.

The United States continued its assault on goal in the second half only to get burned on a counter attack. Caroline Seeger won a ball at midfield and split Julie Johnston and Meghan Klingenberg. Stena Blackstenius ran onto the pass and bore down alone on Solo with Johnston on her back. Blackstenius left no doubt by slotting the shot to the left post in the 61st minute.

Jill Ellis made a few strategic subs and they paid off for a while. Megan Rapinoe and Crystal Dunn came on for Allie Long and O’Hara. In the 77th minute, Rapinoe stole a ball at midfield while the Swedes were looking at an injured Kosovare Asliani. Tobin Heath took the pass and served Dunn at the top of the box. Her flash header bounced off a Swedish defender right to Morgan, who made no mistake.

Both teams had goals disallowed in extra time. Lloyd’s header off a great run and serve by Dunn beat Lindahl but the official indicated offside. Replays show she was not. Less than a minute later, Lotta Schelin put one past Solo after a bad clear by the United .

Sweden will play the winner of tonight’s Brazil v. Australia match. The United States will simply go home — disappointed and thinking of wasted chances.