Megan Rapinoe said the United States women's soccer team must enter "do-or-die mode" after a 3-0 loss to Sweden on Wednesday at the Tokyo Olympics.
The USWNT, which entered the Games on a 44-match unbeaten streak, looked out of sorts in its opener against the Swedes and now faces an uphill battle to make it out of the group stage.
"I think we just got a little bit in our head," Rapinoe told reporters. "We'll obviously watch film and all that, but you drop points in the beginning of a tournament and now you're in sort of a do-or-die mode. So you've got to pick up points, otherwise we're going home quick, and you don't want to do that."
Sweden has been a thorn in the U.S.' side for years, including a friendly draw in April that marked the Americans' only non-victory in 2021 before the Olympics, and the Blagult's lopsided victory was no fluke. They held an edge in every key category, including shots, shots on target, possession and corners.
It was a stunning result given the USWNT's status as the clear favorite to win the gold medal in Tokyo. Now Rapinoe and Co. may need wins in each of their final two matches of pool play just to reach the knockout rounds.
Australia scored a 2-1 win over New Zealand in Group G's other match on Wednesday. So the Aussies and Swedes both have three points on the U.S. heading into their head-to-head matchup Saturday.
The top two third-place teams from the three pools will also advance to the quarterfinals, but tiebreakers could come into play there, as well. That's why the U.S.' three-goal loss was such a big deal compared to a one-goal defeat.
Yet, the USWNT faced a similar situation in 2008 when it dropped its Olympic opener to Norway, 2-0. The Americans bounced back with victories over Japan and New Zealand to advance, and they ultimately went on to win gold with a triumph over Brazil in the final.
Christen Press referenced that event in her comments Thursday.
"We've had a long string of wins and I think we haven't had a lot of games where we had to come back," Press said. "I think it was actually really good to have this match. In 2008 we lost our first match and team won gold. So I think now we're seeing this as a learning opportunity. And the message is already 'Heads up, put it behind us, next game.' There's no time in a tournament like this to dwell."
The U.S. faces New Zealand on Saturday before wrapping up group play Tuesday against Australia.