The US women's national team stumbled into the knockout stages of the 2016 women's Olympic soccer tournament on Tuesday evening, sleepwalking to a 2-2 draw with Colombia at muggy Arena Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil.
As expected, US head coach Jill Ellis rotated her squad significantly with their place in the quarterfinals already assured, handing starts to Christen Press, Ali Krieger and Crystal Dunn -- and even Megan Rapinoe, who made her first appearance of the tournament in a 30-minute cameo as she makes her way back from a serious knee injury.
But it was the USWNT's steadiest contributor to date who fluffed her lines. Veteran goalkeeper Hope Solo was stunningly beaten on two free kicks by Catalina Usme, the second coming in the dying seconds of the match to hand Colombia their first point of the tournament as they exited in last place in Group G.
Usme's first-half strike looked like a relatively straightforward save for Solo as it squeezed through the wall, only for the ball to squirt through Solo's hands, then between her legs, and slip across the goal line to the delight of the Brazilian fans who continue to boo her at every opportunity in this event.
Solo's teammates worked to erase her error and soon did so, with Dunn reacting fastest to tap in the rebound of a Carli Lloyd drive from distance that was parried by Cafeteras 'keeper Sandra Sepulveda, who was excellent all evening, and then caromed off the woodwork.
Rapinoe's replacement Mallory Pugh looked to have secured a comeback win when she tracked down Dunn's low cross into the box and cut to her left before finishing low and hard to run the score to 2-1.
But Usme struck again at the death with a viciously-struck set piece from a sharp angle that Solo tipped but could not keep out of the far inside netting.
The USWNT win Group G despite the draw, but move on to Friday's quarterfinals with their momentum dented.
- 27' -- COL -- Catalina Usme
- 41' -- USA -- Crystal Dunn
- 59' -- USA -- Mallory Pugh (Crystal Dunn)
- 90+' -- COL -- Catalina Usme
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1. HOPE HOWLER: One game after saving the USWNT's bacon repeatedly with several clutch saves in the win over France (her 200th cap), Solo inexplicably became the weak link in her team's Amazon outing. Usme deserves full credit for the pace and movement of her second set piece, but the first was a shocking error by the world's best 'keeper. US fans will hope she can use it as motivation when the going gets tougher in the knockout stages.
2. FINDING A WAY TO DRAW: Even when resting players, the USWNT can put out a lineup capable of beating anyone in the world, and by every measurable metric, they should've won on Tuesday. It wasn't all on Solo, either -- Rapinoe committed a dangerous, unnecessary foul to set up the first goal, while Kelley O'Hara made a similar mistake to lay the groundwork for the second. Such gaffes could be punished much more harshly from here on out.
3. WHAT'S YOUR BEST XI, JILL? Ellis has done well to spread out minutes and keep her squad fresh through the group stage. Even the unusual move of pulling Rapinoe off after half an hour on Tuesday makes a certain kind of sense. But now it's probably time for her to pick her best 11 and let them gel. This was an issue for her in the early stages of last summer's World Cup; can she find the right mix again this time?
- USA: Friday, Aug. 12 - quarterfinal vs. opponent TBD, Brasilia (Noon ET, NBCSN, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel)
- COL: Eliminated from Olympic soccer tournament