U.S. women's soccer is back on the Olympic podium.
The team wasn’t standing atop the perch it expected, nor were the medals around the players' necks the color they hoped, but they made an important return to the podium after failing to get there in 2016 for the first time.
It was two of the team's gold-medal winning veterans who helped get them there Thursday. Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd each scored two goals to lead the U.S. to a 4-3 win over Australia in the bronze medal game at the Tokyo Olympics.
It was the first bronze medal for the USWNT. The U.S. won gold in four of the first five Games since women's soccer became an Olympic sport in 1996, taking silver during the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
That history of sheer dominance is what made the team's quarterfinal loss to Sweden during the 2016 Rio Olympics so stunning and the return to the medal podium so necessary, even if not for gold.
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It was fitting that Lloyd, who became the team’s all-time leading scorer in what could be her final Olympic game, and Rapinoe, who stressed the importance of winning a medal even if its not the color the team wanted or expected, were the two players who found the back of the net.
It began with Rapinoe scoring an Olimpico at the Olympics.
Rapinoe recorded the Olimpico, a goal scored directly off a corner kick without another player touching it, in the eighth minute to give the U.S. an early 1-0 lead over Australia.
The lead didn’t last long as Samantha Kerr fired a shot that deflected off USWNT goalkeeper Adrianna Franch and into the net to even the score at 1-1 in the 17th minute. Franch, starting in place of injured starting keeper Alyssa Naeher, then made a beautiful save on a header by Kerr to keep the game tied.
Rapinoe soon struck again, scoring on a direct strike off Australia's misclear in the box to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead in the 21st minute.
Lloyd then notched her first goal of the Tokyo Olympics, taking one touch off a feed from Lindsey Horan and firing into the side netting to give the U.S. a 3-1 lead in the first minute of extra time. It was the ninth career Olympic goal for the 39-year-old Lloyd, tying her with Abby Wambach for most all-time for the U.S. women’s soccer team.
Lloyd broke the record in the 51st minute after beating her defender on a ball played over the top for a breakaway goal that increased the United States’ lead over Australia to 4-1 and put her name atop the scoring list.
Australia had a quick response as Caitlin Foord scored three minutes later to cut the U.S. lead to 4-2.
Australia's Emily Gielnik scored on a strike from outside the box in the 90th minute to make it a one-goal game. But the Americans managed to hold on, surviving a late scramble in the sixth minute of extra time as Franch punched the ball out of traffic in front of the net to secure the bronze.
When time expired, the USWNT celebrated its medal-clinching win with hugs, smiles and a team photo.