YOKOHAMA, Japan — No early exit this time.
Just as they did in 2016, the U.S. women needed penalty kicks in their quarterfinal matchup. But unlike in Rio, when the Americans lost to Sweden, Alyssa Naeher made two monster saves to beat the Netherlands. She stopped Vivianne Miedema, who scored both of the Netherlands’ goals, on the first shot, and Aniek Nouwen on the fourth.
Rose Lavelle, Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe all made theirs to give the Americans the win. They will play Canada in Monday’s semifinals.
The USWNT’s loss to Sweden on PKs in 2016 was the first time they had failed to win a medal at a major tournament. They have won their second consecutive World Cup since then – beating the Dutch in 2019 – but that loss in Rio has left a sour taste in their mouths for five years.
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Naeher ensured the USWNT wouldn’t face the same outcome in Tokyo.
The Dutch had a chance to take the lead in the 81st minute, after Kelley O’Hara was whistled for a foul on Lineth Beerensteyn in the area. But Naeher, in shades of her performance in the World Cup semifinal against England, dove left and batted the ball away.
She also made a spectacular diving save in the 103rd minute.
The Americans have been plagued by offside issues all tournament, and the quarterfinal was no different. They had four goals waived off, including two in overtime, making it nine offside goals in four games.
That set up the penalty kick drama.
The Americans beat the Dutch in 2019 to win their fourth World Cup title, and by an identical 2-0 score last November in their first game. But the Netherlands were talking trash before the game, sensing some vulnerability in the USWNT after its anemic performance in the group stage.
The USWNT was held scoreless in two of its first three games, and played for a draw in the Group G finale against Australia.
But despite giving up an early goal to Miedema in the 18th minute, the Americans were the better team at the start. They came out aggressive and finally looked cohesive, linking passes and creating chances.
It finally paid off. And then some.
In the 28th, Williams juked a defender just outside the box and spotted Mewis, her Carolina Courage teammate, rushing forward. She placed the ball perfectly, and Mewis connected on a diving header that Sari Van Veenendaal had no chance to stop, tying the game at 1-1.
Three minutes later, following a Tobin Heath corner kick, Williams headed the ball to Mewis, who headed it back to her. Williams got the ball on the inside of her right foot and knocked it in for the go-ahead goal.
The goal and assist were particularly sweet for Williams, who missed out on the 2019 World Cup team and was initially named an alternate for Tokyo until the International Olympic Committee and FIFA agreed to expand the rosters because of COVID.