Despite 2-2 draw, U.S. women win Group G, advance to quarters
MANAUS, Brazil -- The United States played Germany and Japan en route to a World Cup title a year ago. It played France a few days ago in this tournament. But it was Colombia that handed the Americans their first deficit in a major tournament since a 2012 Olympic semifinal.
The same Colombia that hadn't scored a goal in any previous meeting with the United States.
It wasn't the likeliest opponent to force the United States to chase a game.
It might have been the unlikeliest opponent to chase back after the Americans regained control.
But chase back the Colombians did. A set piece goal in the 90th minute from Catalina Usme, her second of the game, earned the South American underdogs a stunning 2-2 draw against the reigning champions.
The United States controlled the game, both in possession and chances created. It won Group G despite the draw, while Colombia was eliminated despite the same. But this was Colombia's night, a result in many ways as impressive as its shocking win against France in the World Cup.
The United States won't know its quarterfinal opponent until after Sweden and China play in Tuesday's late round of games. The opponent in Brasilia could be whichever of those two teams finishes third in Group E (assuming Brazil finishes first), or Australia, the third-place finisher in Group F that clinched advancement with a win earlier Tuesday.
Here are three more observations from Tuesday's draw:
1. Credit the Colombians
Perhaps rare for a South American rival, Colombia had the full backing of the large crowd on hand to watch host Brazil play later in the evening. And while much of the talk entering the game was about a Colombian team in disarray -- its coach said players like Lady Andrade wouldn't even play Tuesday, only to reverse course and start her -- it played a spirited, if imperfect, game throughout, and Usme made the most of two set pieces.
There are vast swaths of the globe that women's soccer needs to grow more competitive, but South America is clearly chief among them. This was a night the Colombians will remember.
2. Hope Solo again in the spotlight
The crowd in Manaus, which was considerably larger even at the start of the night's first game than either of the crowds the United States played in front of for its first two games, didn't even wait for Hope Solo to touch the ball to continue the taunts that began in Belo Horizonte. As Solo jogged to her position on the field before kickoff, the crowd launched into the now familiar "Zika" chants. Later, they added a new twist on a familiar chant that became "Ole, Ole, Ole, Zi-ka, Zi-ka."
It appears the chants will follow her wherever the United States travels in this tournament.
Solo heard the heckling in the game against France and turned in a quintessentially stellar performance in a game with enormous stakes. And while she generally draws rapturous cheers when playing for the national team in her own country, it's not as if she is unfamiliar with hostile fans in other international and club settings. So let's not get carried away in connecting dots to link the heckling on this night and the admittedly glaring error that allowed Usme's free kick to slip under Solo and into the net. Solo has heard a lot of boos in her life; she hasn't let in a lot of goals like that. It was undeniably a gaffe. It is debatable if it was crowd-aided.
3. Rapinoe's return overshadowed
The unexpected scoreboard drama took precedence over the story that appeared likely to dominate the night beforehand. For the first time since last October, and the first time since suffering a torn ACL in December, Megan Rapinoe took the field as a starter for the United States. The midfielder played just 30 minutes, although her first-half substitution had every appearance of a planned change rather than any kind of forced move.
It took Rapinoe only 90 seconds to put a cross into dangerous space in Colombia's box. Perhaps as important, it took her only four minutes to go crashing to the turf after being fouled -- and get back up to continue playing. And it took her not that much longer to wave her hand at the referee in frustration with a foul call (one that set up Colombia's goal).
She looked, in other words, like herself. And as long as her exit really was part of the plan, her short cameo all but justifies the decision to bring her to this tournament.