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Staying golden: The U.S. prevail over Japan to clinch fourth Olympic gold medal

Aug 9, 2012, 7:54 PM EDT

oly

The U.S. finally gets one back against Japan with a resounding 2-1 victory. If this indeed the end of a cycle, what a way to go out.

Wembley Stadium played host to an Olympic gold medal match between well-balanced rivals that is jam-packed with talking points. Here are five such notes:

Love her or hate her, Hope Solo’s got real substance behind all that gruff talk. Sure, Solo can be something of a rabble-rouser, but tonight the attention is squarely on her job and how well she does it. As she’s been known to say, goalkeepers don’t win games, they save them. She did just that today. That 83rd minute leap to keep out Tatsuya Tanaka’s effort on goal? Wow. That save almost certainly prevented another penalty kick shoot-out and preserves her status as the world’s best.

Carli Lloyd has silenced the doubters. The U.S.’s number 10 has been known to polarize a segment of the USWNT’s support base, but even her most fervent faultfinders have to applaud her performance today. Lloyd had what was perhaps her best game in a national team shirt yet. Her brace (just the second in Olympic final history) capped off an unstoppable performance. Lloyd set the tempo with her opening goal just a few minutes into the proceedings when she powered in Alex Morgan’s pass from short range. It was a harbinger of positive things to come. Her second effort was textbook Lloyd: a surging solo run through the center of the park topped off with a cannon blast of a shot.

Lloyd lost her once-sacred starting spot heading into the tournament. It seems that was the catalyst for such the stark turnaround in form. She’s been a robust and productive force in midfield throughout her stint in the United Kingdom. As Pia Sundhage beamed in her post-match comments, “She proved that I was wrong and that I’m not that perfect.”

Another jaw-breaking stat? Carli Lloyd has now scored every one of the USWNT’s three goals in their previous two Olympic finals.

It’s entirely appropriate to flag up (and gripe about) the blown calls. Let’s leave the U.S./Canada furor to one side for a moment. The United States were the beneficiaries of a couple major non-calls. Tobin Heath committed a blatant handball in the first half that should have led to a penalty kick. Rachel Buehler’s egregious bear hug on a Japanese attacker in the box also went unpunished. Head official Bibiana Steinhaus is arguably the most preeminent referee in the women’s game. That both she and her assistant referees missed said incidents is a tad surprising. Let the debate rage on.

Simply put, Japan are class. And that extends way beyond their eye-pleasing soccer. It’s the Nadeshiko’s grace in defeat to the non-existent remonstrations over the non-calls to the modest bows upon being substituted off. Granted, it’s probably cultural as much as it is sporting, but it’s still a pleasant sight. Let’s just hope these players have done enough to get first dibs on first class seats on the flight home. They deserve nothing less, despite the result today.

The sequel was better than the original.Let me dish out an early caveat here and say one should avoid becoming a prisoner of the moment. Still, after bearing witness to two exhilarating women’s soccer matches in four days, it’s hard not to get caught up in the moment.

Today’s match may not have featured the controversy or heart-stopping suspense that compel some to grant the U.S./Canada semifinal ‘greatest of all time’ status. And of course there was last year’s World Cup final with its steady supply of star-making performances and plot twists. But in terms of the sheer quality shown by both teams tonight, this match was special.

Possession see-sawed back and forth as both teams earnestly tried to outwit their opponents through varied means. Japan clung to their patented patient build-up play while the U.S. weren’t shy in imposing their physical advantage. Japan hardly lost their composure, even while facing a two-goal deficit. Passes weren’t hurried; reckless fouls weren’t committed; players refused to be gripped by panic. The U.S. also looked tighter and more polished than they did in the World Cup final one year ago. They were certainly more clinical, which is the ultimate difference maker.

Tremendous goalkeeping, some dandy goals (Japan’s included), and an enthused near-capacity crowd at Wembley added to the momentum of the occasion.

Make no mistake: these are the two best women’s soccer teams in the world. Today’s result just means we have a new (and familiar) number one.

  1. inhokewetrust - Aug 9, 2012 at 8:14 PM

    Handball but of course it’s America…so they can do to wrong..btw Carl lewis tested positive 3 times in 1988 for banned stimulant…but again USA USA USA…

  2. kiopta1 - Aug 9, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    You have a vendetta inhoke?

  3. acieu - Aug 9, 2012 at 9:42 PM

    Another Canadian whiner no doubt.

  4. chrish3k - Aug 9, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    Christ. Ben effing Johnson. He took – on his own admission – steriods.

    Glad you all won the Bronze. I hope this sticks in yhour collective craw forever – you could have won Gold!

  5. footballer4ever - Aug 9, 2012 at 10:17 PM

    Let’s be crystal clear about Thursday’s U.S.-Japan missed handball call: It was wrong. Period.

    One game error in favor of USA is a coincidence. Two calls in a row in favor of USA it’s a conspiracy.

    • term3186 - Aug 10, 2012 at 3:40 AM

      Sooooo do you weigh that against the calls that favor the other team? Because the stomp by Tancredi on Lloyd was a farrrrrr bigger blown call than the 6 second violation by Canada’s keeper, but somehow the 6 second violation has become the narrative.

      • schmutzdeck - Aug 11, 2012 at 8:29 AM

        I don’t know when Tancredi did her dance on Carli’s head but the time wasting bit led directly to a penalty which tied the game and set the stage for the winner.

        So we know the consequences.

        If Tancredi gets red carded it is possible Canada hangs on and maybe even scores to win but we will never know. . Which is why comparing blown calls is ultimately futile and a waste of time.

  6. footballer4ever - Aug 9, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    It’s okay though…. Japan has the bigger trophy which is the World Cup and by the looks of it, Canada will be preparing to win the WC at home in 2015.

    • schmutzdeck - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:29 PM

      Bigger? Is the World Cup harder to win? I doubt it.

      In reality the women have the situation the men are trying to avoid by invoking the Under 23 rule, i.e a de facto World Cup every two years. In this case however the womens game needs the regular exposure, unlike the men’s game.

  7. archlobster - Aug 9, 2012 at 10:35 PM

    Do you people realize the USA never, EVER has gotten the benefit of the doubt in soccer? This is a rare occurrence. Where are all you conspiracy theorists when goals get stolen from the USMNT in WC2010? Or Frings in 02?

    The USA isn’t a country that gets calls in soccer. Just some butthurt fans that can’t take losing like real men and women.

    And Canada should have been a woman down for a large chunk of the match, what with head stomping and all.

  8. footballer4ever - Aug 9, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    When it comes to Men’s football national team, you are right that we don’t get the calls, when it comes to USWNT, it’s the opposite. The USWNT is the Brazil of women’s soocer while the US men’s team , well, that’s a different story.

  9. rico33rd - Aug 10, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    Let’s just say both US and Canada were a little fortunate in their medal games as either game could have gone the other way. I found it refreshing that there wasn’t the faking and other garbage that has turned me off World Cup and men’s soccer in general.
    A great day for North American soccer and time to move on.

  10. boscoesworld - Aug 10, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    I didn’t notice any thuggery or violence in the game yesterday……..hmmm. Is it possible that the wrong team was being blamed for “highly illegal” activities? Those things don’t seem to happen when we play the Frances or Swedish or Japanese. Except for the handball the ref basically swallowed her whistle but for some ticky tacky stuff. There where pulled shirts and all the usual stuff in the box on free kicks but she didn’t call those either way yesterday. Thats all you can hope for from a ref. Consistency. The Canadian folks need to take off the blinders. Calls equal out during the course of the game. You’re team could have certainly been down to 10 for the last 35 minutes.

  11. manchestermiracle - Aug 10, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    Hey, thanks NBC for putting the same comments up on every story. Shouldn’t each story have its own commentary?

    Anyway, Canada in no way deserved to win this game. The French thoroughly outplayed them. If it wasn’t for their bad luck hitting posts and crossbars they would have won 3 or 4 to nothing.

    • schmutzdeck - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:39 PM

      Well, what does “deserve” have to do with it?.

      Canada won because they are better at the main objective of the game, putting the ball in the net.

      Canada did it once while France did it not at all.

      France is more unlucky than Canada but is not more deserving. They failed to do their job.

      Hitting the bar does not count. Missing by a foot, an inch, a millimeter does not count. . No matter how close you get and no matter how many times you get close, if you do not put the ball in the net more than the other guy, you have failed in your purpose and do not deserve to win.

      Just to reiterate, if you score more goals than the other guy you win.

  12. manchestermiracle - Aug 10, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    Posted the previous comment on the France/Canada game, yet it shows up here. Strange….

  13. rico33rd - Aug 10, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    The Frances, Swedish or Japanese? They are called French but it doesn’t surprise me you didnt know that.

    • schmutzdeck - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:41 PM

      For the sake of consistency should that not read ” The Frances, The Swedens and the Japans”?

  14. bobinkc - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    Maybe we should just give every coach a handgun when he enters the stadium and, if he doesn’t like a call, he gets to take one shot at the head ref. If he misses, the opposing coach gets to take one shot at him. Then somebody gets prosecuted for murder and the pitch gets some fertilizer.

    How much longer is this whining and bitching about bad and/or missed calls going to continue? Stuff gets missed. Grow up, pull up your big-boy pants, and move on to the next game. I’ve seen two-year-olds act more mature this year than some of the coaches.

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