Semifinal soccer, everybody! Where everything that can go wrong for USA, does — Inside the media life in Tokyo — Megan Rapinoe speaks

The IX: Soccer Mondays with Annie M. Peterson for August 2, 2021

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TOKYO — BREAKING: The U.S. lost 1-0 to Canada in the semifinal match in Kashima. seemingly everything went wrong for the Americans.

But let’s face it, something has looked off with this team from the opener against Sweden. I believe some big changes are afoot as the World Cup cycle begins.

The team still has one more match, the bronze-medal game against Australia. The Matildas played the U.S. to a tough scoreless draw in the group stage. So it’s quite possible that the U.S. goes home empty handed.

Sweden defeated Australia 1-0 in the late match.

At the same time, this is awesome for Canada. And you all know how I feel about Sincy. She laid on the turf in relief following the match last night.

Bev Priestman said all along that Canada’s goal was to change the color of its medal in this tournament after two straight bronze medals. The Canadians have achieved that goal. Now let’s see how they fare against Sweden.

Since I had to write most of this post before the game, here’s what gameday looked like in Japan!

NOON: Bus to Kashima at noon Tokyo time. Ride takes about two hours.

I’m geeking out because of the amazing writers heading to Kashima, too: USA Today’s Nancy Armour, the Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Bachman, The San Francisco Chronicle’s Ann Killion, The L.A. Times’ Kevin Baxter and Time’s Sean Douglas. Folks, I’m not worthy.

This is my second trip to Kashima, a steel town of about 67,000 on the coast of Japan. The stadium is the home to the Kashima Antlers in the top tier of men’s soccer here. On game stays about 1/3 of the entire town turns out.

In the pandemic, they’re still having games in Japan, but you are not allowed to cheer or blow horns. You can only clap for goals.

2 p.m. Tokyo Time: At the stadium! The media center at the stadium.

4 p.m. Tokyo time: That’s Alyssa and AD warming up.

20th minute:

Disaster strikes. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher is injured. Enter Adrianna Franch in the 30th.

And we go to halftime:

74th minute:

Disaster strikes again. Jessie Fleming makes her penalty after a foul in the box by Tierna Davidson. Confirmed by VAR. Gutted for her.

86th minute:

Carli Lloyd hits the cross bar. It would be the last best chance for the Americans.

Sincy addresses the media afterward. Said it was revenge for 2012. She could not stop smiling.

But here she is wondering why the heck I’m taking her picture in the mixed zone. LOL.

OK, with that, I gotta go finish my AP stuff. More next week. Thanks for coming along on the ride with me. I’m working on a big story tomorrow, and I can’t wait to share.


Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

I wrote about the first openly transgender athletes taking part in the Olympics.

I also wrote about Lynn Williams getting a start, and how she took advantage of it.

And one more from me: I wrote about Alyssa Naeher and how she is a steadying force in big moments. Like the World Cup against England.

I also wrote a little thing on Christen Press heading into the quarters last week.

Manchester United hires Marc Skinner as the team’s new head coach.

Amee Ruszkai for excellent feature on Formiga.

Caitlin Murray did a nice job on this Crystal Dunn feature for ESPN.

Brian Strauss wrote about NWSL broadcasts for the Washington Post.

Nice story here from USA Today on Jess McDonald.

Stumptown Footy’s Kyle Garcia on the settlement that allows Olivia Moultrie to stay with the Thorns.

Annie Costabile of the Chicago Sun-Times on how the Red Stars are trying to make a move in the NWSL.

Julia Poe from the Orlando Sentinel on Becky Burleigh’s debut with the Pride.

Caitlin Murray looks at how the semifinal could be a new classic, for ESPN. Let’s hope!

Murray did a great job with this story on Catarina Macario for ESPN.

Bless Steph Yang for this wonderful piece on Christine Sinclair for the Athletic. Seriously, but a subscription just for this.

Yang also wrote a good story on Naeher.

Kevin Baxter’s semifinal preview for the L.A. Times.

Dan Wetzel for Yahoo Sports also wrote about Alyssa Naeher.

The U.S. men’s national team sides with the women in a brief with the Ninth Circuit.

Yuki Nagasato is a treasure.

Dan Lauletta previewed the Olympic semifinal for The Equalizer.

Sophie Lawson with an excellent piece in The Equalizer on Sweden’s evolution.

And Claire Watkins with a piece on what we’re all thinking: We don’t know the USWNT at all.

Watkins with another fine piece for Just Women’s Sports on how this is likely the end of an era for the USWNT.

Equal Time Soccer’s Matt Privratsky caught up with Allie Wisner!

Clare Brennan for Just Women’s Sports on Vivianne Miedema’s amazing Olympics.

Five at The IX: Megan Rapinoe

Here are Megan Rapinoe’s awesome mixed zone comments following the winning penalty against the Netherlands. They’re great, so I included them. Next edition I’ll have more about what she said after the loss, but she mostly said it sucked.

This interview was much more fun.

Question: What does it say about this team that you struggled in the group stage, I think everyone would agree, and then you come up, put an effort like this to bounce back in three days.

Rapinoe: Oh you guys aren’t surprised, come on. I mean knockout round you either get on a flight tomorrow or drive to Kashima. So just wanted to put it all out there, tough conditions on and off the field. It’s a difficult tournament to go through, so you just try to stick together. Obviously we’re able to split up the minutes between a lot of people, I think it’s helping. I think we were able to get the best of them in overtime, a couple toenails offsides and then, you know, convert the penalties. So the steam just never really quits, even when we’re playing like shit or when we’re playing great or we’re playing in the middle. We’re still we’re still gonna go out there and play as hard as we can.

Question: What about Alyssa?

Rapinoe: Unbelievable. I mean just from the jump in this tournament. I know we got three on us in the first game, but she made a bunch of unbelievable saves. She’s been huge this whole tournament. Obviously to take a penalty from them in the run of play is huge, and then to get us two the shootout, I mean, that just made it so easy for us especially with them going first, or taking that first one, it just takes the pressure off the team. She’s just been immense. She’s not a person of many words, especially to you guys, she probably doesn’t say anything to you guys, but she’s been absolutely huge for us.

Question: Pens in front of 50,000 or in front of just your teammates, is that any different?

Rapinoe: I mean yeah I’d much prefer in front of 50,000. Because it’s way more fun. The entertainment value decreases immensely when there’s just the camera people behind, and we don’t even know where you guys are. So it’s definitely not as much fun, but it kind of is what it is. I mean we practice penalties just like that all the time because we’re just doing them training or pregame training, whatever it is, so we’re actually gotten quite used to a really empty, awkward stadium so maybe that’s given us a little bit of an advantage.

Question: Can you put us inside your mind when you are taking that game-winning PK, how you approached it?

Rapinoe: No way. Give the secrets away? No, I mean I just try to be calm. I mean, I always say to myself like, `The worst is gonna happen is you’re gonna lose the whole thing.

Question: Kind of a big deal!

Rapinoe: I know! You could lose the Olympics for your country. That’s kind of how I look at it. I just try to go out there, do my routine and be confident. Obviously, like I said, Alyssa taking two off the board for us just gives all the shooters a ton of confidence.

Question: Any thought about how it ended last time in a shootout?

Rapinoe: Not really. Honestly, like I said, take one and lose it and take one and win, so it’s gonna go one of two ways. I feel like we always have the mentality, if you’re willing to get up there and take one. At that point I don’t really care how it goes. I just want everyone to feel comfortable and confident and do their thing. If we lose, we lose as a team, if we win we’re going on.

Question: Is it important for you to stay here as long as Sue?

Rapinoe: Sigh. Yeah. I could never catch up, but I can’t fall too much further. She keeps winning WNBA championships. Olympics. It’d be nice if I had multiple golds, and she had multiple golds, so we could just say we both have multiple goals.

Question: What about the your celebration at the end you kind of stuck your tongue?

Rapinoe: Yeah I don’t know, I was like, I don’t know what I did, I don’t think it was very cool, but it was really nothing. I didn’t know what to do.

Question: what about the arms in the air thing?

Rapinoe: That’s so 2019. And there’s no people! There’s no crowd!

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Sarah Kellam @sarahkellam, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Annie Peterson