Rapinoe and Smith blow it in penalties as USWNT exit World Cup in the cruelest fashion

As the sun crested the horizon for many Americans on Sunday morning the figurative sun set for the United States women’s national team who lost 5-4 on penalty kicks to Sweden in the Round of 16 of the Women’s World Cup.

I’m sorry to disappoint folks but I’m at a loss for words. How on Earth did the USWNT lose that game? The Swedish kryptonite continues to haunt the women.

Let’s get to where it went wrong in penalties. Megan Rapinoe and Sophia Smith blew it. Plain and simple. I know Kelly O’Hara would miss her kick later but let me set the scene.

The USWNT were in the driver’s seat. Sweden just missed their third penalty kick to give the U.S. a 3-2 advantage. Up steps 38-year-old Rapinoe who occupied one of the 23 coveted roster spots for her leadership and coolness with set pieces and penalties.

She had just come off one of the most disastrous substitute appearances in recent memory and proceeded to do this.

Megan Rapinoe penalty miss

You had one job.

Alyssa Naeher bailed Rapinoe out with a great save to keep the score at 3-2.

The USWNT are back. All they need is for Smith, who we at The18 voted the best player for the team, to convert. If the objective for Rapinoe at this tournament was to have the youngsters follow in her footsteps, then I guess Smith did just that.

This opened the door for the Swedes and it only got sweeter for the Scandinavians when O’Hara slammed her attempt in round seven off the post.

Sweden’s winning kick initially looked like a save from Naeher, but goal line technology showed that the ball crossed the line by a mere millimeter.


While it’s easy to point the blame at Rapinoe and Smith for the loss, and I argue a somewhat valid point, let’s dig a little deeper. Here are two big reasons the USWNT lost.

Why the USWNT lost to Sweden

To preface, this was the best the U.S. looked all tournament. This was a renewed side that looked like their old self. The triangle pass connections were there, the midfield was existent for once and chances were being created.

The USWNT outshot Sweden 22-9 and put 11 shots on target to Sweden's one.

It wasn’t enough though and here’s why.

1. Zecira Musovic is a goalkeeping Goddess 

They are going to have to build a statue of Musovic back in Sweden because that was one of the most incredible World Cup goalkeeping performances in history. She recorded 11 saves with many being absurd.

Musovic I tip my cap. She was lights out.

2. Vlatko doesn’t believe in subs

USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski finally did something right and went tactical. He switched up the formation to a 4-2-3-1 and it worked wonders. Emily Sonnett and Andi Sullivan were a remarkable tag team in the midfield while Lindsey Horan was able to play more offensive and create chances.

He got that right, but then he once again refused to make substitutions and arguably the wrong ones. In the first 90 minutes he made one substitution. Lynn Williams came in for Trinity Rodman who was recovering from an illness.

His next sub was Rapinoe for Alex Morgan in the 99th minute and we had to watch the worst 20 minutes I’ve ever seen from her. She took over set piece duties for Sullivan, who was doing incredible, and repeatedly sent in the most miserable deliveries. She offered nothing of any value going forward. You're telling me Alyssa Thompson or Ashley Sanchez don't deserve a shot but Rapinoe does?

Vlatko wouldn’t make any other substitutions besides O’Hara and Kristie Mewis in the 120th minute for penalty duties. 

USWNT fans will be begging for his firing after the tournament.

Sweden advance and will play Japan in the quarterfinals on Friday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

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