Olympic Soccer Live: U.S. vs. Australia Bronze Medal Match

Olympic Soccer Live: U.S. vs. Australia Bronze Medal Match

Olympic Soccer Live: U.S. vs. Australia Bronze Medal Match

Olympic Soccer Live: U.S. vs. Australia Bronze Medal Match

As Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and their United States soccer teammates prepared to take the field to play Australia for the bronze medal on Thursday, it was hard not to wonder if the match — and the Olympic tournament — would be the last appearance on such a grand stage for some of the U.S. team’s most accomplished players.

That debate has focused most specifically on Lloyd and Rapinoe, two former world players of the year, two players with World Cup championships and Olympic gold medals on their résumés, but also two players now closer to 40 than 30 trying to hold back younger teammates in the dying of the light.

“Are you trying to push me out to pasture, too?” Rapinoe, 36, joked Monday, after she was asked, several times, if she thought these Olympics would be her last.

Lloyd, 39, has been far more reflective about the topic, but also about the other things she has in mind for her post-soccer life. Book offers. Children. Travel that does not involve stadiums or grueling training sessions.

“I’m not going to lie: I miss having a normal life,” Lloyd said this week. “I miss home, miss my husband, family, friends. But this is what you sacrifice every four, every five years — it’s all part of it. Eventually it comes to an end at some point. So I just try to savor every moment.”

She did that after Monday night’s loss to Canada, lingering on the field crouched in thought as the Canadians celebrated only yards away. She then put herself through a typical session of postgame sprints, all alone on the same field in Kashima where — maybe — she will play her final meaningful game with the team that has consumed her life for two decades.

The Olympics, whether the Americans go home with a bronze medal or empty-handed, are seen as a transitional moment for the United States women’s program. The next World Cup is two years away, in Australia and New Zealand in 2023, and the Paris Olympics follow a year later. A new core may emerge. New talents will join, and respected veterans may be cast aside in the name of progress. This is how teams evolve, even one as good as the United States.

For players, though, who have spent a generation in the U.S. team — Lloyd played her first game for the U.S. senior team in 2005, and Rapinoe made her debut a year later — that is the commitment they must weigh: to stay in the fight, not for a few more months of top-level soccer, or a year, but probably three of them.

“Of course, I’ll obviously think about it after the tournament,” Rapinoe said, declining to offer more. “We don’t get the luxury of going one year at a time. We kind of have to think in these four-year blocks. I haven’t really thought about that.”

She did offer a window into her thinking, though, in talking — maybe not wistfully, but certainly admiringly — about her generation’s achievements, and what will come after she and others are gone from the team. In addition to Lloyd and Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, who is 36, could face the same decision soon.

“Obviously there’s a few of us that are closer to the end than the beginning, certainly, and we’ve had an amazing run,” Rapinoe said after the Canada loss. “We’ve had a lot of nights that looked different than that.

“We’ve been through so much together. So it’s kind of sad, but I feel like it’s in good hands. This group below us, and even younger than that, are just a fantastic group of footballers.

“I feel like we’ve done our job, but you never want to have it end.”


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