Friday, August 10, 2012

U.S. women's soccer team coasts for the gold

Posted By on 08.10.12 at 10:11 AM

Hope Solo: What, you were expecting Carli Lloyd?
Well, nobody expected a game as good as the Olympic semifinal when the United States played Japan for the gold medal in women's soccer Thursday at Wembley Stadium in London. How could it be?

And it wasn't.

It was still mighty satisfying, however, for various reasons.

Yes, the U.S. women atoned for their loss in last year's World Cup to a Japanese team inspired by the earthquake and tsunami, and who could have begrudged the Japanese that?

And yes, they simply completed the deal after their semifinal win over Canada in a back-and-forth grudge match that was just maybe the best soccer game I'd ever seen. (And yes, you're welcome to read that with damning faint praise.)

But the way they did it was stylish.

Carrying the momentum over, Carli Lloyd scored on a header in the first eight minutes, when she beat Abby Wambach's foot to the ball on a lovely crossing pass by Alex Morgan, who'd scored the game winner in the 123rd minute in Tuesday's semifinal on a header of her own. (Enjoy this while you can before NBC insists on its exclusive rights.)

As if to prove it wasn't a fluke, Lloyd added a spectacular goal early in the second half when, on the run, in traffic, she hooked it back against the grain just inside the left goal post to make it 2-0.

Japan scored on a slightly sloppy goal soon after, converting a ball that bounced around in front of the U.S. net as if they were playing not soccer but pachinko, but otherwise U.S. goalie Hope Solo was marvelous and made all the necessary saves to preserve the third straight U.S. gold medal in women's soccer.

All that said, the highlight of the day to me was when I found my daughters—and AT&T U-verse—had taped the closing minutes of Tuesday's semifinal ahead of the gold-medal match. That sequence was cut off for those who taped the game Tuesday when it ran a full 30-plus-minutes long, only to have Morgan score the game winner in the third and final minute of stoppage time in the second overtime session.

I knew what was coming, and when it was coming, and yet the goal brought tears to my eyes when I saw it again, quite unlike when I'd seen it on Internet highlights.

That was the great game of the 2012 London Summer Olympics, and I felt legitimately bad for the Canadian team, which played fantastic—especially Christine Sinclair, who scored all three Canadian goals for a hat trick—only to get hosed on a dubious handball call in the box that gave Wambach what turned out to be a game-tying penalty kick at a critical juncture.

Save that, however, for the Bud Greenspan Olympic overview that now will never be, as the great Olympic chronicler is no longer with us. No, this was a satisfying U.S. women's soccer win, not to be marred by any details.

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