Let the Games Begin: Klingenberg, USWNT Begin Quest for Olympic Gold

Jill Ellis

2016 Summer Olympic Games – Women’s Soccer Preliminary Group Play – United States vs New Zealand

6 p.m. EST

This game will air on NBC Sports Network and NBC Universo. You can also stream from NBCSN’s site.

Meghan Klingenberg‘s quest for Olympic Gold began more than four years ago — when she came close to being on the 2012 gold medal winning team — served as an alternate for the squad.

Kling saves
Meghan Klingenberg (right) will be playing in her first Olympic Games — and will likely be the team’s starting outside left back. (Photo courtesy U.S. Soccer)

Last year when she returned to her hometown to play at Heinz Field in a friendly against Costa Rica after playing a key role in the 2016 FIFA Women’s World Cup winning team, the Gibsonia native talked about setting her sights on Brazil, and the 2016 Summer Olympic games prior to the match.

“It’s a statement game. They’re one of the best teams in our region and we’re going to have to face them in (Olympic qualifying) and to me, it’s an opportunity to show the world and show CONCACAF we’re not taking this lightly,”said Klingenberg.

 “We want to go after gold in the Olympics and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Fast-forward nearly one year– and the USWNT has cruised its way through competition including Olympic qualifying and are the favorites heading into the Olympics.

Having only lost once in the past year, Head Coach Jill Ellis may be bringing back a lot of familiar faces like Klingenberg from the World Cup winning squad, but make no mistake, this team has a different identity — particularly in midfield and at forward.

However, the one area that remains intact is the back line and goalkeepers — that were instrumental in leading the U.S. Women to a World Cup victory.

Klingenberg will remain in her spot at left outside back.

Hope Solo will start in goal, and along with Klingenberg, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Kelley O’Hara will probably will make up the back four.

Another player with Pennsylvania ties on the U.S. team, Ali Krieger, a former Penn State standout, like Klingenberg, missed out on the 2012 Olympics suffered an ACL tear during the qualifying tournament.

But this year, she’s a part of the team.

Krieger, who will be 32 when the Olympics begin, becomes the oldest first-time U.S. Olympian for women’s soccer.

While the USWNT are prohibitive favorites, it might not be as easy as you think to reclaim the gold medal.

Beyond the stability with the back four, the rest of the team is filled with talent and all kinds of options for Ellis.

Megan Rapinoe, who is dynamic outside midfielder on Klingenberg’s left side, is still getting back to full fitness after a knee injury late last year.

In lead-in matches the USWNT hasn’t scored a lot of goals, but Ellis will throw some combination of Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Tobin Heath, Crystal Dunn, Christen Press, and – of course –last year’s World Cup hero Carli Lloyd out on the field.

While it’s a different looking line-up than what we saw in Canada for the World Cup, that’s still a lot of talented options.

The question will be be  — can one of the other strong contenders (Germany? France? Brazil? Australia?)  knock off the U.S.?

We’ll learn a lot about France right away as the U.S. will see Les Bleues early in the tournament — playing the second game on Saturday.

France is an interesting team.  They’ve been on the doorstep for so long.  They have a very strong team but yet, in major tournaments seem to come up short even as they’ve become a strong women’s soccer country.

They had 2011 World Cup semifinal loss to the U.S., 2012 Olympic semifinal loss to Japan (and defeat to Canada in bronze medal match); loss to Denmark (in penalties) in 2013 Euro quarterfinal; and another loss to Germany (in penalties) last summer in Canada.

Major tournament success is not a problem for the U.S. Women.

They’ve advanced to the gold medal game of every Olympic women’s soccer tournament that has been contested. The USA won the inaugural gold medal in 1996 in Athens, Ga., won silver in 2000 in Sydney, Australia, and will be going for its fourth straight gold medal after standing atop the podium in Athens, Greece in 2004, in Beijing in 2008 and in London in 2012.

US Women’s Team / Women’s Soccer Olympics Schedule

Wed., Aug. 3 – New Zealand (6 p.m. ET) at Mineirão Stadium in Belo

Sat., Aug. 6 – France (4 p.m. ET) at Mineirão Stadium

Tues., Aug. 9 – Colombia  (6 p.m. ET) at the Amazônia Stadium in Manaus

Medal Rounds

Sat., Aug 13 – Quarterfinals

Wed., Aug 17 – Semifinals

Sat., Aug 20 – Bronze and Gold Medal Games

2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)

DEFENDERS (6): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)

FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)

If you are a real soccer nut — and want to watch as many game as possible — here’s the complete women’s and men’s schedules.  Of course, the U.S. Men failed to qualify for the Olympics again:

MEN’s

GROUP A
Aug. 4 in Brasilia
Iraq vs. Denmark
Aug. 4 in Brasilia
Brazil vs. South Africa
Aug. 7 in Brasilia
Denmark vs. South Africa
Aug. 7 in Brasilia
Brazil vs. Iraq
Aug. 10 in Salvador
Denmark vs. Brazil
Aug. 10 in Sao Paulo
South Africa vs. Iraq

GROUP B
Aug. 4 in Manaus
Sweden vs. Colombia
Aug. 4 in Manaus
Nigeria vs. Japan
Aug. 7 in Manaus
Sweden vs. Nigeria
Aug. 7 in Manaus
Japan vs. Colombia
Aug. 10 in Salvador
Japan vs. Sweden
Aug. 10 in Sao Paulo
Colombia vs. Nigeria

GROUP C
Aug. 4 in Salvador
Fiji vs. South Korea
Aug. 4 in Salvador
Mexico vs. Germany
Aug. 7 in Salvador
Fiji vs. Mexico
Aug. 7 in Salvador
Germany vs. South Korea
Aug. 10 in Belo Horizonte
Germany vs. Fiji
Aug. 10 in Brasilia
South Korea vs. Mexico

GROUP D
Aug. 4 in Rio de Janeiro
Honduras vs. Algeria
Aug. 4 in Rio de Janeiro
Portugal vs. Argentina
Aug. 7 in Rio de Janeiro
Honduras vs. Portugal
Aug. 7 in Rio de Janeiro
Argentina vs. Algeria
Aug. 10 in Brasilia
Argentina vs. Honduras
Aug. 10 in Belo Horizonte
Algeria vs. Portugal

QUARTERFINALS
Aug. 13 in Sao Paulo
Game 1: 1A vs. 2B
Aug. 13 in Salvador
Game 2: 1B vs. 2A
Aug. 13 in Belo Horizonte
Game 3: 1C vs. 2D
Aug. 13 in Brasilia
Game 4: 1D vs. 2C

SEMIFINALS
Aug. 17 in Rio de Janeiro
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner
Aug. 17 in Sao Paulo
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner

BRONZE-MEDAL GAME
Aug. 20 in Belo Horizonte
Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser

GOLD-MEDAL GAME
Aug. 20 in Rio de Janeiro
Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner

WOMEN’S

GROUP E

Aug. 3 in Rio de Janeiro
Sweden vs. South Africa
Aug. 3 in Rio de Janeiro
Brazil vs. China
Aug. 6 in  Rio de Janeiro
South Africa vs. China
Aug. 6 in  Rio de Janeiro
Brazil vs. Sweden
Aug. 9 in Manaus
Brazil vs. South Africa
Aug. 9 in Brasilia
China vs. Sweden

GROUP F
Aug. 3 in Sao Paulo
Canada vs. Australia
Aug. 3 in Sao Paulo
Zimbabwe vs. Germany
Aug. 6 in Sao Paulo
Canada vs. Zimbabwe
Aug. 6 in Sao Paulo
Germany vs. Australia
Aug. 9 in Brasilia
Germany vs. Canada
Aug. 9 in Salvador
Australia vs. Zimbabwe

GROUP G
Aug. 3 in Belo Horizonte
USA vs. New Zealand
Aug. 3 in Belo Horizonte
France vs. Colombia
Aug. 6 in Belo Horizonte
USA vs. France
Aug. 6 in Belo Horizonte
Colombia vs. New Zealand
Aug. 9 in Manaus
USA vs. Colombia
Aug. 9 in Salvador
New Zealand vs. France

QUARTERFINALS
Aug. 12 in Brasilia
Game 1: 1G vs. 3E/F
Aug. 12 in Salvador
Game 2: 1E vs. 2F
Aug. 12 in Sao Paulo
Game 3: 1F vs. 2G
Aug. 12 inBelo Horizonte
Game 4: 1E vs. 3F/G

SEMIFINALS
Aug. 16 in Rio de Janeiro
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 4 winner
Aug. 16 inBelo Horizonte
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner

BRONZE-MEDAL GAME
Aug. 19 in Sao Paulo
Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser

GOLD-MEDAL GAME
Aug. 19 in Rio de Janeiro
Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner

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