Christen Press: USWNT loss to Sweden in Rio drives its quest for Olympic gold


Christen Press spat the phrases out with drained acknowledgement greater than pleasure.

In global championships, she stated, we at all times play Sweden one day.

The Tokyo Olympics aren’t any exception. The womens nationwide football group confronted Sweden in six of the 8 Womens World Cups and two times in six Olympic tournaments, the ultimate coming 5 years in the past in Brazil when Sweden eradicated the U.S. on penalty kicks.

That quarterfinal loss in Brazil marked the one time the U.S. has failed to succeed in the general of an Olympic match and the Americans dont have to attend lengthy for an opportunity at revenge, opening staff play of the pandemic-delayed Japan match Wednesday towards Sweden at Tokyo Stadium.

Theres completely a sour style in the entire avid gamers that have been a part of that fit and the way it ended, she stated. Thats what drives this time. One of the primary issues that I realized about this group is tips on how to turn any force and expectation and historical past. And it used to be some of the treasured lesson.

Its additionally one Press realized smartly as a result of no U.S. participant used to be left with a extra sour style from the loss in Brazil than Press, who skied her penalty kick smartly over the purpose to seal the Americans destiny. But no participant has achieved a greater activity of turning that sour style candy than Press, who has long past from being a bench participant within the ultimate Olympics to the driving force of probably the most dominant womens group in football historical past.

The headlines might to visit teammates Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd however the offense is going thru Press, who has been without delay fascinated with 37 targets in her ultimate 37 video games. Over the ultimate two years nobody has scored extra targets than Press for a U.S. group that ultimate misplaced 45 video games and a pair of years in the past.

And the adventure to that degree of domination for each Press and her group began in depression with that heartbreaking loss in Brasilia 5 summers in the past.

U.S. Women's National Team players Christen Press, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg and Tobin Heath react to losing.

U.S. Womens National Team avid gamers (from left to proper) Christen Press, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg and Tobin Heath react after dropping to Sweden within the 2016 Rio Olympic quarterfinals.

(Celso Junior / Getty Images)

The Swedes have been coached by means of Pia Sundhage, who had taken the U.S. to its 3rd directly gold medal 4 years previous. She knew her new group couldnt move toe-to-toe together with her outdated one, so she bunkered in from the outlet kickoff, hoping to win the sport in penalty kicks and that used to be precisely what took place.

An hour after the sport Morgan, who had by no means misplaced a sport in an Olympic match, used to be in tears. Goalkeeper Hope Solo used to be indignant.

We performed a host of cowards, she stated, a remark that earned her a suspension from U.S. Soccer. She by no means performed some other sport for the nationwide group.

Press used to be between tears and anger, her profession at a crossroads. Her sluggish, head-down stroll over the sector in Brasilia used to be painful to observe. But when it used to be over she took the excessive highway, by no means making excuses and quietly getting again to paintings, scoring seven of her career-high 12 targets in her ultimate six video games of 2016, changing into the 5th girls in nationwide group historical past to attain in double figures 3 years in a row.

My ambition is relatively merely to position one foot in entrance of the opposite every day and to be a greater participant and a greater individual with each and every revel in.

Christen Press

Three years later, she used to be one in every of simply 3 U.S. avid gamers to seem in all seven wins within the Womens World Cup in France, scoring the outlet purpose in a 2-1 win over England within the semifinals.

As a human I need, each and every yr, to conform, she stated. My ambition is relatively merely to position one foot in entrance of the opposite every day and to be a greater participant and a greater individual with each and every revel in.

Do I believe happier, fitter, extra assured, extra succesful? Absolutely, added Press, who gained two CIF titles on the Chadwick School in Palos Verdes sooner than going to Stanford, the place she gained the Hermann Trophy because the countries best participant and the Pac-10s Scholar Athlete of the Year award. As a more youthful participant I used to be singularly keen on scoring. I feel my largest construction has been including different sides of the sport to my arsenal.

That has incorporated monitoring again on protection, facilitating targets and searching for the move first and the shot 2nd. Her adventure additionally took her again to Europe, first to Swedens Kopparbergs/Goteborg, the place she had performed previous, after which to Manchester United of the Womens Super League.

It used to be more or less a year-long lesson on protecting, Press stated of her time in England beneath trainer Casey Stoney. I in point of fact simply studied and realized and stepped forward my defensive positioning and the nuances of protecting.

The U.S., ranked No. 1 the sector by means of FIFA for 49 consecutive months, got here to Tokyo chasing historical past as a result of after successful their fourth Womens World Cup two years in the past, a 6th Olympic gold medal would make it the primary group of both gender to win World Cup and Olympic titles in the similar cycle.

Wednesdays opener with No. 5 Sweden figures to be the Americans hardest take a look at in a gaggle degree that can conclude with video games towards New Zealand and No. 9 Australia.

Yeah, thats true, stated Vlatko Andonovski, who’s unbeaten in 23 video games as U.S. trainer, with simplest an April draw with Sweden earned on a Rapinoe penalty kick within the 87th minute marring his file. And have been going to do the whole thing imaginable to get able. But should you take a look at it from Swedens viewpoint, they may be able to say the similar factor proper?

The sport will resolve the course each the U.S. and Sweden take the remainder of the best way towards the most productive box in Olympic historical past, a 12-team staff that incorporates 8 of the worlds best 10 groups and the 4 semifinalists from the 2019 Womens World Cup.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games logo is seen in Tokyo on January 28, 2021.

Tokyo Olympics Coverage

But if the match is the inner most ever, so is the U.S. roster, whose 22 avid gamers come with 17 from the unbeaten 2019 Womens World Cup group and 11 of the 18 avid gamers from the Rio Olympics. The group averages 92 world caps and has 77 blended video games of Olympic revel in.

We are extra skilled. Weve been down this highway sooner than, stated Carli Lloyd, the one participant in historical past to attain the successful purpose in two Olympic finals.

Press, at 32, one in every of 11 avid gamers older than 30, is a part of that skilled core, with two World Cup titles and two Olympics she used to be change in 2012 on her resume. And she heads into the Tokyo match having a look each ahead and again.

The loss in Brazil is within the rear-view replicate now, a large bump in an another way easy trip that observed Press grow to be one in every of 8 U.S. avid gamers to best each 100 caps and 60 targets. But that consequence, in addition to Presss different achievements, are a part of her legacy and the legacy of the group. And shes made up our minds to verify its one everyone continues to be informed from.

I really like being a veteran in this group. I really like being a tradition provider, she stated. Ultimately anywhere the street leads, existence simply has such a lot to supply.

The gorgeous factor about soccer is you can not easiest it. It forces you to try for greatness and greatness is rarely reached. Theres at all times extra to do.

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