[USA-JAPAN REPORT CARD]A desperately close Olympic women's soccer gold-medal match at Wembley Stadium Thursday went to the United States, which took a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Carli Lloyd and held off Japan long enough to capture a 2-1 victory. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney grades the U.S. women, who won their third straight Olympic gold medal and fourth in five attempts ...
GRADE/PLAYER (CLUB) GP/G
7 Hope Solo (Seattle Sounders Women) 124/0.
A spectacular palm save robbed Yuki Ogimi of a goal, and she preserved the victory by pushing away a shot from Asuna Tanaka in the final minutes. She punched away several dangerous crosses but needed help from teammates on balls that slipped past her. Still, her dominance in the box during the tournament confirmed her as the world's top keeper and during one of those melees her quick recovery snuffed a point-blank Ogimi shot.
6 Amy LePeilbet (no club) 75/0.
She couldn't contain winger Nahomi Kawasumi in the first half but tightened her marking to limit space and time on that side of the field, and during a furious goalmouth melee blocked a Japanese shot with her chest that would have tied the game. The converted centerback, while occasionally stranded on the corner by her positioning, came up with enough saving tackles to justify her selection.
6 Christie Rampone (no club) 266/4.
An atrocious giveaway late in the match offered Japan a chance that Solo repelled, and on a couple of other occasions Japanese forwards evaded her to threaten. But she also cleared away two balls that had gotten past her goalkeeper and surprised everyone at Wembley by slaloming through midfield with an audacious dribble. At 37, the captain got her team to the tallest podium yet again.
5 Rachel Buehler (no club) 88/3.
Marked and tackled robustly while struggling to match Japan's quickness and guile. Beaten in the air by the cross that Ogimi headed on goal. She escaped punishment for a rugby tackle during a set play and suffered an injury that forced her out of the game.
6 Kelley O'Hara (no club) 25/0.
Set in motion the sequence that produced the first goal by playing a perfect ball that found Tobin Heath free on the left wing. Her tenacious attention to the combination play of Aya Miyama and Yukari Kinga, a vital facet of Japan's attack in earlier games, usually thwarted those efforts. She also hacked a couple of loose balls out of danger.
5 Shannon Boxx (no club) 170/23.
She returned to the lineup for the first time since leaving the opener against France early with a hamstring injury and seldom looked off the pace. She stabilized the center and limited the touches of Homare Sawa while screening the back line. However, she also reacted too late when Aya Miyama cut inside to find shooting and passing angles.
8 Carli Lloyd (no club) 141/40.
Scored two spectacular goals with a running header and a more Lloydesque 25-yard belter, and didn't hesitate a couple of times to try and score a third. She also applied pressure in midfield and bottled up passing lanes while always looking for a spot to play the ball forward when it was won.
6 Tobin Heath (New York Fury) 51/6.
Her low ball to Alex Morgan at the near post set up the first goal and reflected a more mature approach then the brazen runs at goal she'd attempted in earlier games. Her defensive work, while spotty, occasionally disrupted Japan's forays up the wings, and she held the ball coolly in the final minutes to kill time.
4 Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Sounders Women) 58/15.
She was generously given an assist for playing a short ball near the center circle to Lloyd, who took off on a long dribble to fire home a shot from distance. She didn't much influence the game during the run of play and seldom got opportunities on corners and free kicks. Lauren Cheney replaced her in the 57th minute.
6 Alex Morgan (Seattle Sounders Women) 48/30.
She ran at opponents yet didn't quite seem sharp enough to beat them on the dribble consistently, but her trap, turn and chip to set up Lloyd for the first goal superbly displayed her skill and positional awareness. She livened up the U.S. attack with her stylish play throughout the tournament.
5 Abby Wambach (no club) 188/143.
She misfired on her shots yet did much of her best work defensively, heading set plays out of danger and blocking shots. While failing to score for the first time in the tournament, she put forth her most gladiatorial effort to win knockdowns and carve out space for teammates.
5 Lauren Cheney (no club 73/18).
Jumped into the fray early in the second half and while sometimes late to help out defensively found teammates with her passes after gaining possession.
5 Becky Sauerbrunn (D.C. United Women) 27/0.
Replaced Buehler for the final 10 minutes. Came over to close down Tanaka's angle on last Japanese threat.
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high.)