Solo’s errors force USA to settle for stunning draw

She was the hero just three days ago. But in what should’ve been a relatively easy win for the U.S. women’s national team, two errors from goalkeeper Hope Solo forced the U.S. to settle for a surprising 2-2 draw against Colombia, finishing another underwhelming group stage for the U.S.

Colombia’s Catalina Usme scored twice on set pieces that Solo would normally be expected to handle with ease, negating goals from Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn for the Americans. The U.S. still won Group G with the result, but in a tournament where momentum can be key, the U.S. doesn’t head into the quarterfinals with much.

The Americans went down first in the 26th minute. On what should’ve been a routine catch for arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, Solo either misjudged the power behind Usme’s free kick or the ball just slipped through her gloves. Either way, the ball rolled right between Solo’s legs to put Colombia ahead.

The U.S. had fought back and taken the lead before Usme beat Solo again on a free kick, this time from a much trickier angle to the right of the penalty area. With the game trickling into stoppage time, Solo whiffed on her punch to clear the ball away and it went unfettered into the net.

As surprising as both Solo’s mistakes and the end result were, the Americans still looked dominant throughout the night, with the match mostly happening in Colombia’s own end. The U.S. out-shot Colombia 16-5 and held a whopping 65 percent of the possession.

Still, it feels like a bit of deja vu for a team that underwhelmed in the group stage of the Women?s World Cup last summer and still managed to win the whole thing. The different, though, is that while the U.S. was able to dip into their roster depth and change formations last summer, it appears they have no such options here.

Ellis rotated her squad heavily coming into face Colombia. Likely expecting a relatively easy win, as most pundits did, she rested five of the starters who beat a very tough France team only three days ago.

It’s doubtful Ellis cared what Colombian coach Fabian Taborda had to say, but he did his part to try to lull the Americans into a false sense of comfort before the game. He told reporters that attackers Lady Andrade and Carolina Arias were worn out and would be rested and that Usme was injured. But by the time game time rolled around, all three of them were in the starting lineup with Usme scoring both goals.

There were positive signs for the U.S., if you look for them. Megan Rapinoe played her first minutes since December and did pretty well, making a couple of very dangerous crosses, including the one that Lloyd sent off the crossbar.

Pugh’s goal was a strong showing of individual effort from the rookie who has yet to play professional or college soccer. With a box filled of yellow shirts, she dribbled toward the far post to find space, turned, and fired a shot. Dunn’s goal came from beating a handful of Colombian defenders to a rebounded Carli Lloyd shot, another individual spark of attacking effort.

But the U.S. had their chances to put the match out of reach, too. With Christen Press and Pugh two-on-one, Pugh dished a ball off to Press who had a clear shot, but Press instead tapped it back to a sprinting Pugh who was offside by then. In only the third minute, Lloyd sent a header off the crossbar.

But with the win-or-exit knockout rounds beginning on Friday, a draw to a team 24 spots below the U.S. in the world rankings is not how the Americans wanted to exit the group stage.