KASHIMA, Japan - The U.S. women’s soccer team had two objectives Thursday night in an empty stadium 90 minutes outside Tokyo. The first: win a bronze medal, therefore turning down the volume on the unfamiliar doubts and questions it faced during the past few weeks, at least temporarily. The second: send these otherwise sour Olympic Games out on a high note.
Mission accomplished, thanks to a 4-3 win over Australia at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium. The United States had a pair of goals each from Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, the superstars in their mid-to-late thirties who helped define the current era of dominance in U.S. women’s soccer.
Rapinoe opened the scoring in the eighth minute with an arching corner kick that might’ve been dubbed an olimpico if Australian goalkeeper Teagan Micah hadn’t gotten the side of her thumb on it before it sailed in. Rapinoe scored again in the 21st minute when she found herself in the right spot in the box to flick a leg out and volley in a poor clear from an Australian defender with a high kick.
Lloyd’s first goal came in first-half stoppage time. She took a pass from Lindsey Horan and sent in a clean shot with her left foot to make it 3-1, then beat Micah one-on-one in the 51st minute after collecting a bouncy pass from midfield to extend the lead to 4-1.
It was a banner day for the 39-year-old, who in her 312th cap logged the second-most appearances in international soccer history, regardless of gender, and with her second strike scored her 10th career Olympic goal for the United States, breaking Abby Wambach’s record.
After a lackluster run in Tokyo, Thursday’s win got the program its sixth medal in seven Olympic Games.