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Lloyd's goals and Solo's saves give USA gold
by Ridge Mahoney, August 9th, 2012 9:17PM

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TAGS:  japan, olympics, women's national team

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The American women took their third straight Olympic gold medal by downing Japan, 2-1, with a pair of goals by Carli Lloyd, a few clutch saves by Hope Solo -- and a fair bit of good fortune. Here are a few observations from a memorable end to a remarkable run:
 
CLUTCH CARLI. Four years ago in Beijing, Lloyd struck the overtime winner that earned the USA women their second consecutive gold medal. At Wembley Stadium in London on Thursday, she scored with two classic finishes to enable a repeat.

She'd already scored two goals in the tournament, including a belter from distance in the 4-2 dispatch of France to open the U.S. schedule. In the seventh minute of the final, she got on to the end of a feed from Alex Morgan, who twisted clear of her marker to cut a floater back from byline that a sprinting Lloyd stooped to head powerfully into the net. She set off on another relentless run early in the second half, this time with the ball at her feet, and veered to her right outside the penalty area to smash home yet another goal from long range.
 
Lloyd has labored for a year with the stigma of failing with the USA's first penalty-kick attempt in the tiebreaker that decided the 2011 Women's World Cup final and then found herself on the bench for the start of the Olympics.

But her ability to play the holding role behind a line of three midfielders and provide outlet passes to teammates, yet still get forward to score goals emphasized her impressive and underrated array of abilities.
 
SUPER SOLO, AND FRIENDS. Since the USA often controls play for long periods, Solospent a lot of her time as a spectator in goal. She got her game on against Japan, palming Yuki Ogimi's header onto the crossbar to rob her of a goal, and fending off a powerful shot from substitute Asuna Tanaka in the final minutes.

On both plays, as well as several other goalmouth incidents, Solo sprang back to her feet after making an initial save or going down to block.
 
Solo finished with six saves, her highest total in the tournament, and also seeded some crucial interventions from her defenders as well as a bit of luck to deny Japan.

Captain Christie Rampone cleared away two shots from the goalmouth that had eluded Solo, and Amy LePeilbet thwarted Japan with a chest block as she fell to her knees during a goalmouth scramble. A thunderous blast by Aya Miyama blazed over Solo's desperate dive but came back off the crossbar.
 
CLOSE CALLS. As they had in the semifinal victory against Canada, the Americans were helped by favorable refereeing decisions.

German referee Bibiana Steinhaus either didn't see or ignored Tobin Heath's handling of the ball from a Miyama free kick and a goalmouth rugby tackle by defender Rachel Buehler also went unpunished.

Buehler's wrapup of Saki Kumagai is the type of set-play scrum that often goes unpunished, but Heath's outstreched left arm clearly handled a free kick with her stationed several yards from teammates lined up in a defensive wall.



15 comments
  1. Ken Smith
    commented on: August 9, 2012 at 10:49 p.m.
    wonder is there a pattern with refs and decisions in favor of US? Solo holds the ball for more than 6 seconds numerous times ... no call. handball - just like against Canada - doesn't count when US does it. Something strange is going on ....

  1. Jim Conlow
    commented on: August 9, 2012 at 11:01 p.m.
    Why is it that folks don't comment on the calls that go against the USA? Do you think something strange is going on here? Why do folks concentrate on how Japan had all these chances to tie or win but don't mention all the USA's shots that could have put more point up and turned this into a to total landslide? Strange indeed. Japan played a great game and it could have gone either way - in this game Japan was not able to score on any set pieces so I doubt that penalties called or not called had much of an influence.

  1. James Madison
    commented on: August 9, 2012 at 11:12 p.m.
    Good analysis, except that it looked to me as though Buehler grabbed Kumagai in order to avoid landing on her as they were both falling into Solo. Interesting contrast between philosophical reaction of Japan coach to Heath not being called for handling and near-berzerk reactions of Canada coach to perceived officiating errors.

  1. Kerry Ogden
    commented on: August 9, 2012 at 11:23 p.m.
    Ken S.it goes to show you that ref's are human too and they make mistakes, the ref missed Tancredi purposely stepping on Carli Loyds face which would have been an automatic red card, Canada lost to a much better US Team lets face it!! and Japan is lucky that the US Team was tired from the start otherwise they may have taken a real pounding from the US women!

  1. John Burns
    commented on: August 9, 2012 at 11:42 p.m.
    Indeed, there were inequities in the game. Ignoring Heath's handball was the most obvious one but Buehler's strong embrace of Kumagai probably can be attributed to NYRB Rafa Marquez since it is a carbon-copy replica of his close hugging of SJE Shea Salinas on a corner kick a couple of months back. Only difference was Marquez managed to kick Salinas after he took him down and broke his collarbone. The ladies are a bit nicer.

  1. Wayne Root
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 12:20 a.m.
    "As they had in the semifinal victory against Canada, the Americans were helped by favorable refereeing decisions." No kidding! That handball in the box committed by the US player right in front of the referee should have resulted in a PK. I call favoritism.

  1. Jim Conlow
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 1:17 a.m.
    Really? How many times did you guys look at the incident that resulted in a yellow card for Wambach? Watch that a dozen times and then let's discuss favoritism. Refs can only call what they see - so it's favoritism if the ref didn't see the hand ball when she had 22 players to watch but its not favoritism when she awards a yellow card f

  1. Jim Conlow
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 1:25 a.m.
    for a foul that didn't happen - and this occurs right in front of her (or rather didn't occur). But look if the Japan team had put the ball in the back of the net just two more times then there wouldn't be a conspiracy theory... Why? Because there is no conspiracy. They played a game. One team scored twice, the other team scored once. Both teams conspired to score more but failed. In these cases we cannot blame a ref.

  1. Ken Smith
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 7:43 a.m.
    but for those who felt the delay of game call against Canada was okay since it technically violated the rules where were the calls against the US as they "delayed" with the lead. Re-watch and count how long Solo holds the ball ... lot more than six seconds.

  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 8:16 a.m.
    were the best(most experienced, most highly regarded) refs employed, or was there another(social) agenda? until the quality of the refs from the #1 criterion improve to match the quality of the players, why bi-er-whine about it?

  1. Bill Anderson
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 9:28 a.m.
    The calls, or lack of calls, in the US gold medal game with Japan were normal calls that get debated in every match around the world every weekend. The delay call against Canada will live in infamy. With that said, the US were the Olympic Champions, and deserve the Gold medal. France, Japan, and Canada appear to be teams that can challenge for dominance on the world stage. Brazil don't look like they have the ability to challenge the elite teams at this time.

  1. Ken Smith
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 9:54 a.m.
    Sadly the best player at the tournament Christine Sinclair will retire without the gold she likely deserved. The US was outplayed and if you remove the penalty kick they lose 3-2 in regulation time.

  1. Tom Evans
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 6:59 p.m.
    @Ken Smith - In regards to the historically infamous call made by the Norwegian referee during the Canada/USA match and now the blatantly obvious non-call for handling of the ball by Tobin Heath for which I think it’s safe to assume the referee indeed saw it given that they generally look at the wall to watch for forward encroachment----it sure does make one wonder if there is a pattern going on. I doubt it’s really due to intentional collusion to ‘fix’ the match, but I think an argument could be made for the sentiment that perhaps the refs are being intimidated (either consciously or subconsciously) by a soccer powerhouse (in this case, the Women’s U.S. National team). Interesting comments about the handball on YouTube…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAe35v_VL-M

  1. Tom Evans
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 7:05 p.m.
    @James Madison- lol, I’ll have to remember that one the next time I play in senior match and ref is about to pull out his card for me tackling the opposing player in the box. *Hey, I grabbed the guy to avoid falling on him.* In regards to “the philosophical reaction of Japan coach” compared to the “near-berzerk reactions of Canada coach to ‘perceived’ officiating errors”, well, I think if you had lived at all in Japan you would know that this is more of a cultural thing. For example, did you hear some of the whining from the American players when they were called for fouls during the match as compared to the always stoic demeanor of the Japanese women when the same thing occurred to them? Hell, on the podium, they appeared so grateful, they looked like THEY had won the gold medal!

  1. Tom Evans
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 7:14 p.m.
    @Bill Anderson – I am happy that THE U.S.A. (my country) won the gold medal because selfishly, in the grand scheme of things I think it invariably will provide more impetus to grow the sport in America among young girls and more importantly to me, produce a trickledown effect to also inspire young American boys and their parents who may have watched the matches so that someday I may actually see the U.S. be SERIOUSLY competitive in the Men’s World Cup, i.e. play in a semi or better yet, The Final. As to the individual team members on this Olympic squad, I recommend that you gals promptly get your Thank You cards into the Norwegian…and now the German referee. Also, I don’t like the direction that Women’s soccer is headed. It seems that instead of playing for the love of the game, a great deal of emphasis (or, perhaps THEE primary emphasis?), now is that it is a vehicle to fame and fortune. I found the donning of the Nike T-shirts which read “Greatness Has Been Found” to be especially in poor taste. Firstly, I wonder if the women knew of the slogan beforehand and secondly, I wonder if having that knowledge, they STILL would have been thick-skinned enough to put them on IF Japan had completely outplayed them (but lost) along with Team USA receiving even several more “favorable decisions” than the non-call with the handball on Tobin Heath and the non-call with the rugby tackle on the Japanese player….http://blog.sfgate.com/olympics/2012/08/09/backlash-over-team-usa%E2%80%99s-nike-gold-medal-t-shirts/ My bet is that they still would have worn them, for apparently winning (no matter how) = Greatness. When’s the book deal?


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