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One game away from gold
by Ridge Mahoney, August 19th, 2008 7AM

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[RECAP] A year ago in China, the U.S. women were thumped 4-0 by Brazil in the semifinal of Women's World Cup. The controversy surrounding the benching by then-coach Greg Ryan of goalkeeper Hope Solo overshadowed the deficiences in the overall U.S. game against the dazzling Brazilians, who lost the final to Germany. While the USA downed Japan, 4-2, in Monday's Olympic semifinal, the Brazilians sparkled even brighter as they downed Germany, 4-1. On Thursday, the USA defends its 2004 gold medal when it meets Brazil (9 a.m. ET, live on USA Network and the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel).

Against Japan, Angela Hucles scored two goals as the Americans rallied from a 1-0 deficit to sweep past the spirited but overmatched Japanese. A goal by left back Lori Chalupny just before halftime gave the USA a 2-1 lead and Heather O'Reilly, who set up Hucles' first goal, scored the eventual gamewinner in the 71st minute.

Two of the Americans' goals came on what seemed to be crosses when O'Reilly and Hucles' struck balls from wide positions on the right flank, yet they proved to be superior despite starting sluggishly and falling behind to Shinobu Ohno's goal in the 17th minute.

U.S. REACTION
U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage
"I don't think the match was comfortable. I think Japan played very well and if you look how they possess the ball, it could be a role model for women's soccer in the future. Coming back from 1-0, it's all about the team. Scoring different goals from different places made the difference. Japan is a good team so the next World Cup and the next Olympics, you can look for them to get a medal."

PRESS REACTION
"They grew up painting their faces for the 1999 Women's World Cup soccer tournament and taping Mia Hamm posters to their bedroom walls. For years, they have been trying to become their role models' rightful heirs, only to be told they're not there yet, and perhaps never will be. But on a humid night in Beijing's old Workers' Stadium, in front of 50,937, the second-largest crowd to watch a U.S. women's soccer game since the Rose Bowl was filled in that magical year of 1999, it was as if women named Hucles and Chalupny all of a sudden were named Hamm and Chastain."
-- Christine Brennan, USA TODAY

[USA-JAPAN REPORT CARD] Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney grades the U.S. players' performances in their 4-2 win over Japan on Tuesday.

USA-JAPAN [4-2]
RATING PLAYER
5 Hope Solo
6 Heather Mitts
6 Christie Rampone
5 Kate Markgraf
7 Lori Chalupny
7 Heather O'Reilly
6 Carli Lloyd
7 Shannon Boxx
6 Lindsay Tarpley
8 Angela Hucles
6 Amy Rodriguez
SUBSTITUTES
5 Natasha Kai
nr Stephanie Cox
nr Lauren Cheney



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