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US advances to quarterfinals after 0-0 draw with Australia

US advances to quarterfinals after 0-0 draw with Australia

The United States made it through to the quarterfinals of the women’s Olympic soccer competition after a 0-0 draw with AustraliaBy ANNE M. PETERSON AP Sports WriterJuly 27, 2021, 10:05 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleKASHIMA, Japan — The United States made it through to the quarterfinals of the women’s Olympic soccer competition after a 0-0 draw with Australia on Tuesday before a group of Japanese schoolchildren.The Americans are looking to win a fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo. They are also vying to become the first team to win at the Olympics following a World Cup title.But they’ve made it hard on themselves at the Tokyo Games. The U.S. team lost to Sweden 3-0 in its opening match — snapping a 44-game unbeaten streak — before rebounding with a 6-1 victory over New Zealand.The draw with Australia secured the United States second place in Group G behind Sweden on goal difference. The Americans will face the winner of Group F — either the Netherlands or Brazil, depending on late results — in Yokohama on Friday.The United States made five lineup changes for the match, which was not unexpected given the tight competition schedule. Alex Morgan was back up front, in place of Carli Lloyd, while Megan Rapinoe replaced Tobin Heath. Captain Becky Sauerbrunn and defender Kelley O’Hara also returned to the starting lineup.Morgan broke away early in the game but her hard shot was stopped by Australia goalkeeper Teagan Micah.Morgan’s header in the 30th minute was disallowed for offside, a call that was confirmed by video review. The United States also had four goals called back for offside in the first half of the victory over New Zealand.Overall, the Americans again looked out of sorts. Australia controlled possession for much of the game. On Megan Rapinoe’s free kick in the 57th, O’Hara’s pass missed and Morgan’s shot went over the goal, but again the Americans were offside.Australia made a late change to its starting lineup, replacing Caitlin Foord with Mary Fowler.Children from schools around Kashima, a coastal town of about 67,000, attended the match, some carrying signs. When Rapinoe was taken off in the second half, they politely applauded as she passed by.The Matildas were also likely to advance as the third-place finisher in the group, but they have to wait until the end of play on Tuesday to determine their spot.With 12 teams competing in the tournament, the top two finishers in each of the three groups advance to the knockout stage, along with the top two third-place finishers.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

First openly transgender Olympians are competing in Tokyo

First openly transgender Olympians are competing in Tokyo

TOKYO — For Quinn, a midfielder for the Canadian women’s soccer team, the opening match of the Tokyo Games carried more emotional weight than their previous Olympic appearances.Quinn became the first openly transgender athlete to participate in the Olympics when they started on Wednesday night in Canada’s 1-1 draw with Japan in Sapporo.Quinn, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, posted their feelings on Instagram.“I feel proud seeing `Quinn’ up on the lineup and on my accreditation. I feel sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of this world,” they wrote. “I feel optimistic for change. Change in legislature, Changes in rules, structures, and mindsets.”Quinn, who came out as transgender last year, was also a member of the Canadian team that won the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.“Mostly, I feel aware of the realities,” Quinn continued. “Trans girls being banned from sports. Trans women facing discrimination and bias while trying to pursue their Olympic dreams. The fight isn’t close to over … and I’ll celebrate when we’re all here.”Quinn, who plays professionally for OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League, is not the only transgender athlete participating in the Tokyo Games. Probably the most visible is Laurel Hubbard, a transgender woman competing in weightlifting for New Zealand. Chelsea Wolfe, a transgender cyclist, is a reserve on the U.S. women’s BMX Freestyle team.There was the possibility for several more elite transgender athletes to compete in Tokyo. Nikki Hiltz did not qualify in the women’s 1,500 meters at the U.S. track and field trials, while CeCe Telfer was declared ineligible in her bid to run in the 400-meter hurdles. Volleyball player Tiffany Abreu did not make Brazil’s final Olympic roster.The International Olympic Committee has allowed transgender athletes to participate at the Olympics since 2004, but until this year, none had done so openly. In addition to Quinn, Hubbard and Wolfe, some transgender athletes are competing without discussing their transition. Some have been outed and harassed online by people who oppose transgender athletes competing.The current rules specify certain conditions for transgender women to compete in women’s sports. Among them, athletes must demonstrate lower testosterone levels for 12 months before competing, and athletes can only qualify four years after transitioning, at the earliest.Chris Mosier, a triathlete and activist who came out as a transgender in 2010, competed last year in the Olympic trials for the men’s 50K racewalk but had to withdraw because of injury.Last week in an interview with The Associated Press, Mosier said he considered it a major milestone for human rights that transgender athletes would be competing at the Olympics for the first time in Tokyo.“As somebody who has been out and tried to raise visibility for transgender athletes, through my website and through my own participation in sports for over a decade, I feel as proud of this moment as I do of any of my accomplishments. Because this is what I’ve been working for,” Mosier said. “I want spaces in sport for trans athletes to be their authentic selves and compete at the highest level, and know that they are loved and that they belong there. So I’m very excited to see Laurel and Quinn both participate.”Transgender visibility at the Olympics comes amid a wave of anti-transgender legislation sweeping the United States.Proposed laws banning or restricting transgender athletes from participating in youth, high school and even college sports have been introduced in 37 states. At least seven states have enacted laws — but many of those face legal challenges.The U.S. Department of Justice has challenged a ban targeting transgender athletes in West Virginia, and another law impacting children in Arkansas, calling both violations of federal law.In June, the DOJ filed statements of interest in lawsuits that seek to overturn new laws in those states. In West Virginia, a law prohibits transgender athletes from competing in female sports. Arkansas became the first state to ban gender confirming treatments or surgery for transgender youth.The DOJ said the laws in both states violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. It also said the West Virginia law violates Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving federal funds.Federal judges blocked both laws last week.Fallon Fox is a retired mixed martial arts fighter who came out as a transgender woman in 2013. In a decidedly male-dominated sport, she faced widespread criticism at the time.She’s also proud in this moment.“I think it’s awesome that we’re finally getting trans representation at the Olympics. This has been a long time coming. Some of the athletes, some transgender athletes, have tried to qualify for the Olympics in the past and all have failed. And we finally have some that have qualified,” Fox said. “I think that actually says something: I’m not surprised it took this long, given the fact that we have no unfair advantages.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

US rebounds from opening loss with 6-1 win over New Zealand

US rebounds from opening loss with 6-1 win over New Zealand

SAITAMA, Japan — After a stunning loss in the opener, the U.S. women’s soccer team vowed to be ruthless against New Zealand.And they rebounded in a big way.The Americans cruised to a 6-1 rout of New Zealand in front of First Lady Jill Biden at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.With the United States leading 2-0 at the break, Biden arrived in time to watch the team put the game away in the second half at Saitama Stadium.The United States was blanked by Sweden 3-0 in the opener. It was the team’s first loss since January 2019 and snapped a 44-game unbeaten streak. The Americans had not been held scoreless since 2017.But the Americans vowed to regain control of the tournament. Defender Kelley O’Hara said the United States needed to be “ruthless” against New Zealand.“Sweden was a very good team and we didn’t play our best, and when you do that up against a top opponent, they’re going to punish you. So that wasn’t our best performance,” Crystal Dunn said. “I think we came into Game 2 knowing that we don’t go from being a really great team two days ago to not being a great team anymore.”Rose Lavelle scored off a well-placed pass from Tobin Heath in the ninth minute to give the United States an early lead — and the team’s first goal of the Olympics. Despite the lack of goals, the Americans dominated the half, unlike their out-of-sorts start against the Swedes.Lindsey Horan scored with a header in the final moments of the half to put the United States up 2-0 at the break. It was Horan’s 23rd international goal and it came on her milestone 100th appearance for the national team.Horan called it surreal: Her 100th cap while the First Lady looked on in an otherwise empty stadium.“I think my approach going into this game — obviously it’s in the back of your head that you’re getting your 100th cap — but I didn’t want that to be a factor today, Horan said. “I think we wanted to get the job done and my focus was doing whatever I possibly could to help the team win. I’m happy to get a goal and yeah, it’s nice to have a fan in the stands, too.”It could have been worse for New Zealand but the United States had four disallowed goals, all for offside, in the first half.An own-goal by Abby Erceg extended the U.S. lead to 3-0 in the 64th minute. New Zealand avoided the shutout with Betsy Hassett’s goal in the 72nd.Christen Press, who came in as a second-half substitute, scored from the center of the box in the 80th off a feed from Julie Ertz, before Alex Morgan scored in the final minutes of regulation. Another New Zealand own-goal closed out the game in stoppage time.“Look, from our perspective I thought we had a terrific 80 minutes and unfortunately the last 10 minutes kind of let us down a little bit on the scoreline,” New Zealand coach Tom Sermanni said. “From an effort perspective, you can’t fault the players, they gave blood sweat and tears on the field tonight to come up against a very good team.”U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski made five changes to the starting lineup he used against Sweden, giving Carli Lloyd the start over Morgan, Megan Rapinoe for Press, Ertz for Sam Mewis, Emily Sonnett for O’Hara, and Tierna Davidson for captain Becky Sauerbrunn.The United States, the reigning World Cup champion, has been to every Olympics since women’s soccer joined the event in 1996. The world’s top-ranked team has five gold medals, more than any other nation.The U.S. also lost the first match of the 2008 Beijing Games, falling to Norway 2-0, but went on to win the gold.Their nemesis at the Olympics has been Sweden, which booted the Americans from the Rio de Janeiro Games in the quarterfinals five years ago.“I think we were a little bit more composed, a little bit more patient on the ball this game, and we know it’s going to be challenging chasing that gold medal,” Dunn said. “So we’re not taking anything for granted.”New Zealand lost to Australia 2-1 in its opening match and the Ferns’ chances of reaching the knockout round grew slim with Saturday’s loss.New Zealand had not played any matches since March 2020 because of coronavirus restrictions.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Lindahl is a steadying force in goal for Sweden at Olympics

Lindahl is a steadying force in goal for Sweden at Olympics

Hedvig Lindahl is the longtime goalkeeper for Sweden’s national soccer teamBy ANNE M. PETERSON AP Sports WriterJuly 23, 2021, 9:13 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSweden’s anchor is a 38-year-old mother of two who has taken it upon herself to make sure athletes at the Olympics are environmentally conscious.Hedvig Lindahl is the longtime goalkeeper for Sweden’s national team, a veteran of four World Cups and five Olympics.She was in goal Wednesday night when the Swedes upended the top-ranked U.S. women’s national team 3-0 in Tokyo. The victory snapped a 44-match winning streak for the Americans.But before anyone wants to just hand Sweden a medal now, the steady Lindahl was trying to keep the victory in perspective.“I know for a fact that you can go very far in any tournament, even if you lose to the USA or whoever you play in the first game,” she said. “So in the end, I don’t know how much it means but for sure, we showed the world and ourselves that we can play well against a team like the U.S.”Lindahl was also on the team that bounced the United States from the Rio de Janeiro Games in the quarterfinals — the earliest ever Olympic exit for the Americans. She turned away six shots on goal in a 1-1 draw before prevailing in a penalty shootout.While the team in Brazil bunkered on defense — earning a retort of “cowards” from United States goalkeeper Hope Solo — the team in Tokyo attacked the out-of-sorts Americans. Stina Blacktenius scored a pair of goals, and could have had more.Lindahl credits the growth of women’s soccer around the world, especially in Europe, for Sweden’s success, because there are more opportunities for players to raise their game. Lindahl is currently playing professionally for Atletico Madrid.“I think it’s the way that the football is developing. The teams from Europe can bring something else. It’s hard for the American team to maybe have that type of style,” she said.United States forward Christen Press said Sweden’s strong performance was not unexpected: “I think there’s a few teams that we expect them to always be better in a world championship, and Sweden is one of them.”Now Sweden sits atop Group G and is assuredly headed for the knockout round in Japan. But there are two remaining games in the group stage for the Swedes, the first against Australia on Saturday at Saitama Stadium.Sweden has qualified for every Olympics since women’s soccer joined the event in 1996. The team’s best finish was the silver medal in Rio when they lost to Germany 2-1 in the final.Lindahl, who shares two children with her wife Sabine, issued a challenge to other Olympians on her arrival in Tokyo. She asked that her fellow athletes try to use as few plastic water bottles as possible, and instead refill them or use reusable bottles.”Floodings, heatwaves and other extreme weather around the world is a constant reminder of us having to do more,” she said.While she’s appealing for conservation, Lindahl is also helping her team keep focused now that they’ve made some noise in the competition.“We’ve been talking about different scenarios that can happen — maybe not (a medal) yet — but everything that we feel and things that we experience, we are facing with and open mind,” she said. “Hopefully we can still keep focused on what we’re supposed to do. I agree, I think now expectations will hit and you don’t know how it will affect each individual, but I think we are prepared for whatever emotion comes our way.”The United States faces New Zealand on Saturday in Group G, also in Saitama. In Rifu, the Netherlands plays Brazil and China plays Zambia in Group F. In Sapporo, host Japan plays Britain and Chile plays Canada in Group E.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

US women's soccer regroups after stunning loss to Sweden

US women's soccer regroups after stunning loss to Sweden

While it certainly wasn’t the Olympic start the U.S. women’s soccer team had anticipated, a rare loss didn’t skewer the squad’s hopes for goldBy ANNE M. PETERSON AP Sports WriterJuly 22, 2021, 9:02 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTOKYO — While it certainly wasn’t the Olympic start the U.S. women’s soccer team had anticipated, a rare loss didn’t skewer the squad’s hopes for gold.The United States fell to Sweden 3-0 Wednesday night in the team’s opener in Tokyo, snapping a 44-match unbeaten streak. It was a surprising result for the favorites in the field.In fact, it may have lit a fire.Defender Tierna Davidson said Thursday that veteran Kelley O’Hara was rallying the squad ahead of Saturday’s match against New Zealand.“She was like: ‘We don’t have a choice. We have to come out the next game and we have to be absolutely ruthless.’” Davidson said. “So I think that’s what everyone has on their mind right now.”There’s still a good chance that the world’s top ranked team makes it to the knockout round and even a medal match. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the United States fell 2-0 to Norway in the first match, then went on to win gold — a fact U.S. forward Christen Press pointed to after the game.“We’ve had a long string of wins and I think we haven’t had a lot of games where we had to come back,” Press said. “I think it was actually really good to have this match. In 2008 we lost our first match and team won gold. So I think now we’re seeing this as a learning opportunity. And the message is already ‘Heads up, put it behind us, next game.’ There’s no time in a tournament like this to dwell.”It was the first loss for the United States since January 2019, when the team fell to France 3-1 in Le Havre. The U.S. went on to win the World Cup that summer.The Americans are vying for their fifth overall gold medal, more than any other nation, in a sport that joined the Olympics only in 1996. They’re aiming to be the first women’s team to win an Olympic title following a World Cup.The United States failed to medal at the Rio de Janeiro Games after it was ousted in the quarterfinals by — yep — Sweden. And the Swedes drew 1-1 with the Americans in April, the team’s only non-victory this year.“I think we just got a little bit in our head,” Megan Rapinoe admitted. “We’ll obviously watch film and all that, but you drop points in the beginning of a tournament and now you’re in sort of a do-or-die mode. So you’ve got to pick up points, otherwise we’re going home quick, and you don’t want to do that.”The United States moves on to Saitama, where they’ll play the Ferns on Saturday as the group stage continues. Sweden will play Australia in the group.The Matildas downed New Zealand 2-1 on Wednesday in their opening match in Group G.With the win, Sweden made a strong case as potential medalists in Tokyo. The fifth-ranked Swedes won silver in 2016, falling to champion Germany in the final match.“I think now expectations will hit and you don’t know how it will affect each individual, but I think we are prepared for whatever emotion comes our way,” veteran goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl said.There are three groups of four teams playing at the Olympics. The top two from each group and the two top third-place finishers advance to the knockout stage.Britain sits atop Group E after its 2-0 victory over Chile. The Netherlands leads Group F on goal differential after a 10-3 victory over Zambia, the lowest-ranked team in the competition.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Sweden stuns US 3-0 in women's soccer at Olympics

Sweden stuns US 3-0 in women's soccer at Olympics

Stina Blackstenius scored a pair of goals and Sweden once again stunned the United States at the Olympics with a 3-0 victory in the women’s soccer tournamentBy ANNE M. PETERSON AP Sports WriterJuly 21, 2021, 10:37 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTOKYO — Stina Blackstenius scored a pair of goals and Sweden once again stunned the United States at the Olympics with a 3-0 victory Wednesday in the women’s soccer tournament.The Americans, ranked No. 1 in the world and the favorites to win gold in Tokyo, were riding a 44-match unbeaten streak heading into the match.But Sweden, ranked No. 5, has been the U.S. team’s nemesis of sorts in recent years. The Swedes bounced the Americans from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in the quarterfinals, the earliest U.S. Olympic exit ever.Then in April, Sweden played the United States to a 1-1 draw in Stockholm, which snapped a winning streak dating back to January 2019, when the Americans lost to France in the run-up to the World Cup.Blackstenius’ header into the far corner off a cross from Sofia Jakobsson in the 26th minute gave Sweden the first-half lead.The United States came out stale, with its best chance of the opening half coming in the final moments when Rose Lavelle’s shot hit the post. Coach Vlatko Andonovski made changes for the second half, subbing in Carli Lloyd for Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz for Sam Mewis.But Blackstenius scored again in the 54th minute, beating goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, as the Americans continued to struggle. Lina Hurtig then scored in the 72nd.The loss was the first for the United States under Andonovski, who took over when former coach Jill Ellis stepped down following the team’s World Cup victory in France.The Swedes were without Magda Eriksson because of injury. The team said she has been training, but because of the compact schedule of the tournament she was held out of the opener.Tokyo is Sweden’s seventh Olympics. After eliminating the Americans on penalties in the quarterfinals five years ago, the Swedes went on to win the silver medal, losing to Germany 2-1 in the final.The United States has four Olympic gold medals, more than any other nation. The team is vying to become the first to win Olympic gold following a World Cup title.Sweden now leads Group G heading into Saturday’s game against Australia in Saitama, while the United States faces New Zealand. The top two teams in the group advance the knockout round.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

US women shut out the noise in quest for 5th gold medal

US women shut out the noise in quest for 5th gold medal

The U.S. women’s national team has become adept at shutting out all the outside distractions at big tournaments and the Tokyo Olympics are no differentBy ANNE M. PETERSON AP Sports WriterJuly 20, 2021, 9:44 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTOKYO — The U.S. women’s national soccer team is in a bubble of its own making for the Tokyo Olympics, and it’s not just because of coronavirus restrictions.The World Cup champions have become adept at shutting out all the outside noise — the seemingly endless social media debates, the TV punditry and even the trash talk that comes with being the best in the world.“I think, especially the players that have been through these major tournaments, you figure out how to stay in the best mental headspace and sometimes that’s compartmentalizing, that’s focusing on one thing at a time and trying not to let the noise get into what we like to call the bubble,” defender Becky Sauerbrunn said. “So like, secure the bubble, protect the bubble.”The women’s Olympic soccer tournament starts on Wednesday. The United States, the top-ranked team in the world and the favorite to win, opens against Sweden at Tokyo Stadium.The Americans are vying for their fifth gold medal, more than any other national team. They can also become the first women to win an Olympic gold following a World Cup title.There’s reason to believe they’ll do just that. The group is undefeated in 44 straight games, the second-longest unbeaten streak in team history. It’s a deep squad with a formidable attack: Seventeen of the players were on the World Cup squad.Christen Press has been directly involved in 37 goals in her last 37 matches, with 16 goals and 18 assists. Megan Rapinoe, the unabashedly outspoken winger with purple hair, leads the team with seven goals this year.Quietly holding down the defense is goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who has six shutouts in nine starts this year.Naeher is perhaps the leader on the team when it comes to shutting out the noise. She eschewed all social media during the team’s run in France two years ago, and often worked on crossword puzzles before matches to chill out before games.“Everything’s all about compartmentalizing,” the softspoken Naeher said.Of course, it will likely be a bit easier to stay focused at this tournament. Japan is in a state of emergency because of rising coronavirus cases. As a result, the athletes participating will be in their own team or individual bubbles with strict COVID-19 protocols. And no fans will be allowed.“It’s not the best setup in terms of being able to go for a walk or just get outside, go grab a coffee that sort of thing. That’s not available to us,” defender Kelley O’Hara said. “But at the end of the day we’ve all been doing it for a month now with national team, so it’s the reality of the tournament, of the situation, of the Olympics this year. You just kind of take it in stride and make do with what you can.”The United States had a pre-tournament camp in Miyazaki before arriving in Tokyo on Friday in preparation for Sweden, the team that knocked the Americans out of the 2016 Olympics in the quarterfinals.Australia plays New Zealand in the second match of the night at Tokyo Stadium. Twelve women’s teams are divided into three groups for the tournament, which is being played at six stadiums across the country.There are a pair of Wednesday matches at the Sapporo Dome: Britain plays Chile and host Japan play Canada. Additionally, China plays Brazil and Zambia plays the Netherlands at Miyagi Stadium.As captain of the United States, Sauerbrunn is tasked with keeping her side focused.“It’s a skill that I think everyone needs to learn, especially in these major tournaments, because they’re not easy,” Sauerbrunn said about compartmentalizing. “There’s a lot of stress, there’s a lot of noise and so learning to knock that out, block that out, is really important.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/Olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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