Manchester, England (August 6, 2012)-When the U.S. needed a goal the most from the young Alex Morgan, she delivered in one of the most exciting games of her young career and perhaps the history of U.S. women’s soccer.
With the gold medal game on the line between the U.S. Women’s National Team and their Canadian counterparts, a 3-3 tie required extra time to settle the match and was seconds away from going to penalty kicks. Instead Morgan headed in a cross from Heather O’Reilly in the 123rd minute to finally put away the game.
For Morgan it ended a scoreless drought with her last goal coming against France in the first game of the Olympic tournament. And for the U.S. it brought a victory that for most of the game seemed very much in doubt, as they had to come from behind three times.
Canada was led by their captain Christine Sinclair who scored all three goals for her team and seemed to give Canada an extra air of confidence that it carried throughout most of the game. The last time Canada beat the U.S. was in 2001 but Sinclair led her team with one of her best performances in a phenomenal career and proved why she is one of the greatest strikers in the world.
Megan Rapinoe was initially the only answer that the U.S. had to counter Sinclair as she matched her for two goals, the first coming off a corner kick in the 54th minute that curled just inside the left edge of the goal. It snuck past the keeper Erin Mcleod as Rachel Buehler gave an extra nudge to clear away the nearby Canadian defenders.
The next twenty minutes were a flurry of goals as Sinclair added her second in the 67th minute off of a header and then Rapinoe answered three minutes later off a powerful strike from 20 yards out. Sinclair however took the air out of the U.S. when she scored her third goal of the game in the 73rd minute.
At that point it appeared that the late game heroics of the U.S. may be in short supply and that it might be Canada’s turn to finally win a big game. Then a puzzling call by referee Christiana Pedersen gave the U.S. the bit of luck they needed. Canadian goalie Mcleod was called for holding the ball longer than the allotted six seconds and the U.S. was rewarded with an indirect free kick. Rapinoe’s kick hit the hand of Canadian player Lauren Sesselman and just like that the U.S. had a penalty kick in their hands.
Abby Wambach, who had been kept at bay for the majority of the game due to the continuous physical pressure of the Canadian defense, delivered the tying goal in the 80th minute.
The questionable call seemed to deflate the Canadian team that was playing at such a high level prior to the play. The U.S. was able to control the ball more efficiently from that point forward and finally seal the win with Morgan’s header as time was winding down.
It was a physical game as Canada pressed the U.S. squad from the very beginning with a very rough style of play that their coach John Herdman had recently accused the U.S. of employing. Overall the U.S. played very tight for most of the 90 minutes of regulation and their defense proved that against elite teams they still struggle with consistency.
Yet though it was a far from perfect performance, in the end the U.S. was once again on the winning side finding a way to keep the Olympic gold medal dream alive. Wambach spoke to the media after the game and summed up the team’s attitude as they look towards the next game:
“For some reason we like to make things dramatic. I’m really happy that Alex Morgan is on my team. This team doesn’t give up. This is what we’re about. This is what we’ve been working for since the day we lost to Japan in the World Cup final. We know that it’s not going to be easy. We didn’t anticipate a game like this, but we’re willing to deal with whatever is thrown at us. I’m so thankful that people kept believing in us, that we kept believing in ourselves. We stuck with it until the end.”
Japan awaits the U.S. in just three days time as they advanced past France 2-1 in their game earlier today. The gold medal match will be played at Wembley Stadium and will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network at 2:45 ET. It will be a rematch of the FIFA’s Women’s World Cup final that took place last summer with Japan edging out the U.S. in that match.