Whether the U.S. women win their third straight Olympic gold medal or not, how they began their campaign is already cause for celebration.
Starting with the stats: Coach Pia Sundhage’s team scored four goals and were called for only eight fouls. You’ll have to search far and wide to find a soccer team posting numbers like that. And how often do we see a 4-2 scoreline?
For all its attributes, soccer suffers from a serious problem: the rarity of goals. Watching high-level games means you’ll see the ball hit the net once every 35 minutes or so. It was even worse at the last men’s World Cup, which delivered a 2.26 goals per game average in 2010.
The last Women’s World Cup finished with 2.69 goals per game (down from 3.47 in 2007). The 2008 women’s Olympic tournament average was 2.53 (down from 2.75 in 2004).
France went up 2-0 within 15 minutes. Sadly, in the low-scoring sport of soccer a two-goal lead is considered nearly insurmountable. But not on Wednesday when the U.S. women took advantage of a rare opportunity to demonstrate their skills in the spotlight.
With no other sports in action -- the Olympic Opening Ceremonies aren’t till Friday -- any highlights from the U.S. women were sure to get plenty of replay and Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe and Co., provided them.
So refreshing was the sense that getting scored on didn’t seem to bother the U.S. team. They have, I think, an attitude that giving up goals isn’t a disaster because they can respond with more goals of their own. It’s a sense I get from the body language of Coach Sundhage, who never conveys panic or frustration.
"You can't look at only the first minutes or the last minutes, it's the whole game," Sundhage said. "If you look at the whole game, I'm really proud of the team. Scoring four goals, and goals that were fantastic, that's one way to prove that you are ready."
Those comments are a glaring contrast to what we get from most coaches after a high-scoring game who’ll offer the concession that it might have been fun for the fans -- but we’ll make damn sure it doesn’t happen again.
It will be a long time after these Olympic Games that so many Americans will be watching U.S. women play soccer. If Sundhage’s team keeps up this high-scoring, lively soccer, they’ll be eager for the next time.