[USA-CANADA] The USA played three of the greatest games in the history of women's soccer, beating Brazil on penalty kicks and France before losing to Japan in
another shootout in the final at the 2011 Women's World Cup. But those games couldn't touch Monday's USA-Canada Olympic semifinal for drama.
Three times Canada went ahead thanks to the magnificent Christine Sinclair, and three times the USA responded with goals, the third following two controversial decisions by Norwegian Christina Pedersen.
But the drama didn't end until Alex Morgan scored in the 123rd minute -- breaking the record for the latest goal scored in a game, set by Abby Wambach against Brazil last year.
A 500th U.S. international match we'll remember forever.
MORGAN'S WEAK POINT. Morgan scored in both the semifinals and final of the 2011 Women's World Cup and added to her growing legend with her 20th goal of the season to beat Canada. Last year Morgan was used as a late sub off the bench. Now she is a starter for the USA, arguably the most feared woman in the open field in the world.
But it isn't often she scores with her head as she did to decide Monday's thriller.
"Heading is something that Pia has always said is one of my weakest points," Morgan said. "That is probably a true statement."
OLYMPIC ROBBERY? The Canadians were livid with the decision of Pedersen to whistle goalie Erin McLeod for time-wasting and giving the USA an indirect free kick a couple yards inside the penalty area.
If you believed the Canadians, it was the biggest case of Olympic robbery since Italian referee Renato Righetto's decision to redo an in-bound play gave the Soviet Union the Olympic gold in men's basketball over the USA in 1972.
"It was taken from us," said Canada coach John Herdman. "Normally, you would see a booking in that situation [for McLeod] but there was no kidology. She wasn't cheating. She was waiting for her fullback to tuck in. We didn't want to launch it. The referee will have to live with it. We'll move on from this, but I wonder if she will be able to."
Sinclair said the decision was "shocking" and she and her teammates were "devastated."
"We feel like we didn't lose," she said. "We feel like it was taken from us. It's a shame in a game like this that's so important the referee decided the result before it started."
LUCKY AMERICANS? If you listened to the Canadians, you'd also have thought they had won the game on points, but the fact is, the USA outshot Canada, 24-7, and had the better chances. (Wambach hit the crossbar shortly before Morgan scored the winning goal.)
Said Herdman: "They know they got lucky tonight in many ways.”
Asked if she felt badly for the Canadians, U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said without hesitation: "No."
SOLO PANS DEFENSE. It isn't every day that Hope Solo allows three goals, and she didn't take kindly to having to pick the ball out the goal three times. Solo, who famously threw fellow keeper Briana Scurry under the bus after the USA's 4-0 loss to Brazil in the semifinals of the 2007 Women's World Cup, didn't think much of the U.S. defending against Canada.
"I felt like a sitting duck," said Solo about Sinclair's first goal. "She was wide open in the six-yard box and she had me to my left or to my right."
Sinclair later completed her hat trick with two stunning headers six minutes apart in the second half, prompting Solo to respond derisively when asked what she thought of the Canadian's hat trick. “Yeah, we made her look real good. We’re the better team in the air.”
Only once before had Solo had allowed as many as three goals in a game, and it came against Canada at the 2001 Algarve Cup. The 3-0 Canada victory -- its last over the USA -- featured two goals from Charmaine Hooper -- and a third goal from Sinclair -- and was marked with an asterisk. With WUSA about to launch its first season, the USA sent a "B" team averaging 19 years old to Portugal.
PILOT POWER. Clive Charles had to have been smiling from heaven, proud of the show his Pilots were putting on at Old Trafford.
Sinclair, whose parents had once rented a house from the late Charles in Vancouver, played arguably the best game ever by a U.S. opponent, putting Canada ahead three times. And each time Megan Rapinoe responded for the USA, twice equalizing and earning a penalty kick that led to the third goal scored by Wambach.
It was quite a 2005 University of Portland team, national champions who completed their unbeaten season with a 4-0 win over UCLA in the final.
Sinclair set an NCAA record with 39 goals -- two in the final -- and Rapinoe, then a freshman, had a goal in the final, her sixth of the NCAA Tournament.
RACE TO CATCH MIA. In the race to catch Mia Hamm, who holds the world record with 158 international goals, Monday's game left Sinclair and Wambach tied with 143 goals.
"To come and score a hat trick in a semifinal of an Olympic Games against our biggest rivals and not to come away with something … there's something that isn't right about it," Herdman said.
Aug. 6 in Manchester
USA 4 Canada 3 (OT). Goals: Rapinoe 54, 70, Wambach (pen.) 80; Morgan 120+3; Sinclair 22, 67, 73.
USA --Solo; LePeilbet (Leroux, 76), Rampone, Buehler (Sauerbrunn, 110), O'Hara; Rapinoe, Lloyd, Cheney (O'Reilly, 101), Heath; Morgan, Wambach.
Canada -- McLeod; Wilkinson, Moscato, Sesselmann, Nault (Stewart, 101); Matheson, Scott, Schmidt; Sinclair, Tancredi, Filigno (Kyle, 67).
Referee: Christina Pedersen (NOR)