The group stage is over, and now it’s do or die for the United States Women’s National Team as they start the knockout stages with Netherlands. The matchup takes place at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama, Japan and kicks off at 7 am ET, 8 PM local time.
The Americans will try to avoid an early exit for the second consecutive Olympics after falling in the quarterfinals to Sweden in 2016. Standing in the way of a semifinal berth is a highly motivated Dutch team that have dropped eight straight to the Americans, most notably losing 2-0 to the US in the 2019 World Cup Final. Since that game in Lyon, the Dutch are on a four-game winning streak and are the reigning Women’s European Champions.
The Americans will also have to contend with a potent Dutch offense featuring forward Vivianne Miedema who leads all players in this tournament with 8 goals in three games. But the offense doesn’t end there. Her teammate forward Lieke Martens has 4 goals, Lineth Beerensteyn has also netted four 4 goals, and midfielder Victoria Pelova has scored twice. Sure, the stats were helped by a 10-3 battering of Zambia in their first game, but this is a global tournament and goals are goals.
Daniëlle Van De Donk leads the assists category with 4 assists, she is joined in the top 11 by three other teammates, midfielder Jill Roord, forward Renate Jansen and defender Lynn Wilms.
Those are impressive stats for the group F winners, even if readers aren’t familiar with the names just yet. There’s a simple reason for that, soccer fans, the Dutch do not have any players on the roster that ply their trade in the NWSL. After this tournament, don’t be surprised if that changes.
While the Netherlands have been putting on a clinic, the American offense has looked adrift, with the exception of that 6-1 drubbing of New Zealand in the second match. Only four US players have even a single goal, but midfielder Julie Ertz is tied for third with two assists. The team was shutout in two of the three group stage games and outside of two own goals they only beat an inexperienced New Zealand team 4-1. The backline will not be able to completely contain Miedema, they can only hope to slow her down enough for Morgan, Rapinoe and others to find the back of the net on the other end. The biggest weakness for this Dutch team is their backline, who have conceded eight goals in the three group stage games. The USWNT will need to string together more passes in the midfield and control the tempo to limit chances for the Netherlands.
The Tokyo Games mark the first time that the Lionesses have qualified for the Olympic tournament, while the Americans have the most gold medals in Olympic soccer history for a men’s or women’s team.
Alex Morgan: She only has one goal in three games in this tournament, a meaningless brace that made it 5-1 against New Zealand in the second group game. For the Orlando Pride this year she has 4 goals in 7 matches. If she is the star that the USWNT expects her to be, Morgan has to step up with some aggression moving forward. She had one goal wiped out in the 0-0 tie against Australia. The forwards up front need to react as an entire positional group but Alex Morgan is arguably the face of that group. If Alex Morgan and the rest of the team play with the same level of energy as they did in the Australia game, the Americans will be laughed off the field.
Prediction: If the Americans want to get their fear factor back in the eyes of any future opponents, they need to dispatch of the Dutch by a commanding score line like 5-1. Will they be able to? Probably not; the real final score will probably be more like 3-2 in favor of the Netherlands with Vivianne Miedema scoring the winner in extra time. To avoid that, the Americans need to score early in this game to let everybody know that this is not the same team that limped through the group stage but rather the global juggernaut that they seemed to be in the build up to these games.