US soccer team wins nail-biter against Netherlands with penalty kicks in Olympics quarterfinal

This was the first match in the knockout stage.

July 30, 2021, 2:28 PM

The U.S. faced off against the Netherlands Friday in soccer at the Olympics and won.

This was their first match of the knockout stage of the Tokyo Olympics, and with that, the Americans will advance to the next game.

It was a dramatic finish as the score was tied 2-2 at the end of 120 minutes of game time, which included two additional 15-minute extra time periods. The game came down to penalty kicks.

The kicks started with an epic save by America's goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher of a kick by Netherlands' Vivianne Miedema, giving the U.S. an advantage. Penalty kicks were then scored by the U.S. by Rose Lavelle, Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe.

The United States teams celebrates following their team's victory in the penalty shoot out during the Women's Quarter Final match against the Netherlands at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, July 30, 2021, in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.
Francois Nel/Getty Images

Naeher blocked two of the Netherlands' four penalty kicks, while the Americans scored on each attempt. Legend Rapinoe had the final word, with a right-footed kick pounding into the top back corner of the goal.

It was a generally epic day for Naeher who, in addition to blocking those two penalty kicks at the end of the match, blocked another penalty earlier in the match. Had she missed that attempt by Lieke Martens, which happened within minutes of the end of the second period, the entire trajectory of the match would have changed.

United States' goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher catches the ball as Netherlands' Lineth Beerensteyn challenges her during a women's quarterfinal soccer match at the Tokyo Olympics, July 30, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan.
Kiichiro Sato/AP

Former and current players on the U.S. women's national soccer team have been embroiled in a legal battle for equal pay and treatment from the U.S. Soccer Federation. A judge dismissed the lawsuit last summer, and the players have since appealed the decision.

Alongside the conclusion of Friday's game, several amicus briefs were filed in support of the players. This included one from the United States National Soccer Team Players Association, the labor organization for current and former U.S. men's national team players, that said the "men stand with the women in their fight to secure the equal pay they deserve."

Alex Morgan of the United States celebrates scoring a goal before it is disallowed, during a quarterfinal match against the Netherlands, July 30, 2021, at the Tokyo Olympics, in Yokohama, Japan.
Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Arguing that the women's pay was only similar to the men's because the women had consistent spectacular success buoying their pay, the men's brief said, "A woman's rate of pay is not equal to a man's if the woman must consistently achieve better outcomes merely to get to the same place."

"If anything, true equality should have led to the women in 2017 being paid more than the men were paid under their 2011 agreement," the brief added.

The U.S. team faced some uncharacteristic struggles making it past group play in the early stage of the tournament. They began by losing to Sweden, scoring no goals to Sweden's three.

The Americans came back to their more typical style in the next game, beating New Zealand 6-1, but then drew a draw against Australia.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the U.S. men's national team is not the men's American team that competes for a spot in the Olympics.

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