Megan Rapinoe let forth a sort of primal scream after lashing a quick-reaction volley home for her second goal of the United States women’s national team’s 4-3 win in the bronze medal match versus Australia in Kashima on Thursday.
The release was understandable.
The legendary Team USA winger and her almost-as-hallowed team were denied in their quest to reclaim the gold medal in Tokyo, and Rapinoe is one of several stars who didn’t shine as brightly on the road to bronze.
But she was back to her best in the battle for bronze, scoring a ninth-minute Olimpico — a goal directly from a corner kick — before snapping an errant Alanna Kennedy clearance home in the 21st minute.
Australian star Sam Kerr scored a goal and had another would-be marker robbed by deputizing Adrianna Franch in between Rapinoe’s goal in what was a brilliant and head-snapping start to the match. The goal snaps a tie with Lisa De Vanna for most goals in Australia women’s national tea history.
Carli Lloyd also scored her first goal of the tournament, taking a Lindsey Horan feed and smashing home just before halftime. She’d get her second, becoming the Olympics’ all-time leading female scorer, when she poked a breakaway through the legs of Australia’s Teagan Micah.
Australia wasn’t done, though, and Caitlin Foord snapped a header home of a Kyah Simon cross to bring the deficit back to two.
Kerr seemed to have it 4-3 with a header of her own, but the ball refused to cross the line after snapping off the far post.
USA coach Vlatko Andonovski made two changes at the hour mark, lifting Rapinoe and Sam Mewis for Tobin Heath and Rose Lavelle.
Alex Morgan would come on for Lloyd in the 81st, perhaps signaling the end of the 39-year-old’s time with the team. And something to monitor for the future: Morgan needed help to limp off the pitch just over 10 minutes later.
The Matildas got the last goal, though, setting up a desperate final few minutes when Emily Gielnik hit a scorching ball past a flying Franch in the 90th minute.
Australia had a legitimate shout for a penalty waved away in stoppage time, at least if the penalty given to Canada in the semifinal is a guide, but VAR was unwilling to take a deep look.