LOS ANGELES — The road to Olympic redemption is officially on.
Reigning World Cup champion United States punched its ticket to Tokyo 2020 with a 4-0 win over Mexico Friday night at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Being a team so used to superiority over opponents, there’s not typically much to nitpick when it comes to the U.S. women’s national team. But when looking at the dominance they’ve enjoyed in the Olympics, that’s exactly why 2016 will always be notable. The stunning loss to Sweden in the Rio quarterfinals marked the first time ever the USWNT didn’t medal.
“Us veterans that were there definitely don’t forget it and we make sure that the younger ones know,” Julie Ertz said. “By no means are we going to forget what we learned from Rio.”
11 of the 18 players on that roster back in Brazil were on the team sheet for Friday’s decisive match in Southern California. They knew the exact importance of the stage and it was evident just after the initial whistle.
Five minutes into the game Rose Lavelle surged ahead with a defender trailing her and one in front. A slight tap of the ball with her right foot created just enough space and then she fired a left-footed blast past Mexico’s keeper Emily Alvarado.
A little under 10 minutes later, Megan Rapinoe delivered a ball near post off a corner kick which was flicked to an open Samantha Mewis for the second of the night.
The famous “Dos a Cero” chant echoed from the American Outlaws fan section but everybody knew there was more to come.
Mewis got her brace in the second half after she drilled a direct free kick from just outside the box. The Los Angeles native Christen Press, just subbed into the game, added some magic with a chip in the 73rd minute for good measure.
“You never want to take anything for granted. The pressure is always there for us to do well, succeed, remain the No. 1 team in the world,” Carli Lloyd said after the win. “We’ve got a lot of pressure but that’s what makes it really special and great.”
In 1996 it was Tiffeny Milbrett who helped the U.S. win gold vs. China on home soil. 2000 ended with silver after losing to Norway 3-2 in Australia. Abby Wambach netted the winner for the 2004 gold medal in Greece. Then it was Lloyd leading the way in 2008 (China) and 2012 (London), respectively.
2016 is an unfortunate memory that will serve as the motivation for someone to write the story of 2020 in Tokyo.
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