Stratford's Alyssa Naeher leaves Olympic semifinal with injury, U.S. falls to Canada for first time in 20 years

Team USA goalie and Stratford native Alyssa Naeher tried to ignore the pain and stay in the Olympic semifinal match against Canada Monday. A spot in the Olympic gold medal match was on the line.

The U.S. Women’s National Team was close to history, attempting to become the first women’s soccer team to win the World Cup and Olympics back-to-back.

But the pain was just too much for the former Christian Heritage goalie.

A little after the 20 minute mark in Monday morning’s semifinal, Naeher jumped to catch a crossed ball in front of the goal. As her body landed, her right leg planted itself awkwardly on the ground. Naeher immediately tumbled back in pain.

The game paused for about five minutes as officials came on the field to examine Naeher. On the sideline, Team USA backup goalie Adrianna Franch took off her warmups and began to approach the field. It was clear Naeher was in pain with an apparent knee injury, yet after being briefly treated by a trainer she stood up and walked and showed officials she was OK to stay in.

Franch went back to the bench, pulled her warmups back on and the game continued.

However, about five minutes later, Naeher appeared have irritated the injury after kicking a goal kick with the injured leg. As soon as the ball launched from the ground, Naeher knew she needed to come out and waved for a substitute.

After the official didn’t immediately see her request for a sub, Naeher fell to her left knee, physically grimacing in pain.

She was able to walk off the field on her own power, but with a slight limp as Franch came in for the U.S.

Naeher left the field alongside USWNT staff with her face buried in the collar of her shirt, very well knowing her time in Monday’s semifinal, and possibly Tokyo, was done.

Despite a few close shots on goal, Team USA couldn’t capitalize offensively, falling to Canada, 1-0, for the fourth time ever and first time in 20 years.

Canada (3-0-2) scored off a VAR rewarded penalty kick in the 75th minute, giving the U.S.(2-2-1) its second loss in Tokyo and removing any chance at making history.

Canadian starting goalie and former UConn standout, Stephanie Labbe ended the game with six saves to lead her team to its first-ever appearance in the Olympic gold medal match.

The loss places the U.S. will face the loser of Australia-Sweden in the bronze medal game Thursday at 4 a.m. Canada will play the winner in the gold medal match at 10 p.m. Thursday.

maggie.vanoni@hearstmediact.com