High drama, great goals, a step closer to glory

There's plenty of competition for the limelight in these Olympic Games that feature more than 10,000 athletes from 204 countries competing in nearly 30 sports. But the U.S. women’s soccer team remains on track to glory after their spectacular 4-3 victory in the semifinals over Canada on Monday puts them into Thursday’s gold medal game against Japan. Here are a few observations from the USA's win in Manchester …

TRIO OF STARS. “I didn’t even see it go in,” said Alex Morgan, who from six yards headed home a cross from Heather O’Reilly two minutes into stoppage time of the second overtime period. It was the USA’s first lead of the game. It spared us a penalty-kick tiebreaker. And it further confirmed that the 23-year-old – who scored twice and had three assists en route to the semis -- has the potential to become a star of Mia Hamm proportions.

O’Reilly got the ball from Abby Wambach, who in the 80th minute tied the game, 3-3, with perfectly struck penalty kick – giving the 32-year-old a goal in each of the USA’s five matches at these Games and 143 career goals.

Megan Rapinoe, the dynamic 27-year-old winger, scored directly off a corner kick -- a gol olimpico at the Olympics -- in the 54th minute to make it 1-1 and in the 60th minute hit the net with a rocket from the corner of the penalty area to tie the game at 2-2. Rapinoe has three goals and two assists so far.

THE PK. Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen, with Canada ahead, 3-2, called Canadian keeper Erin McLeod for taking more than six seconds to release the ball. The ensuing indirect free kick hit Lauren Sesselmann in the arm and Wambach buried the 80th minute penalty kick to send the game into overtime. The Canadians may claim that the handball wasn’t deliberate, but they were also lucky that Pedersen didn’t call a PK two minutes later when Morgan was fouled twice in the penalty area.

GOALS WHEN THEY NEED THEM. The Americans went on the attack from the opening whistle but they failed throughout the game to find a rhythm, rushing too many crosses, misplaying balls, and rarely stringing passes together as the central midfield duo of Carli Lloyd and Lauren Cheney struggled.

The inability to keep possession didn’t doom the USA against the Canadians, who played an even scrappier game and owe the brilliant finishing of hat-trick scorer Christine Sinclair for coming close to an upset while creating half as many good scoring chances as the USA.

The gold-medal game on Thursday is a rematch of last year’s World Cup final, which the Japanese won on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie.

Much in the Americans’ favor is the knack for getting goals when they need them, such as against Canada and in their Olympic opener, when it crushed France, 4-2, after going down, 2-0.

The formidable strike force of Morgan-Wambach and dynamic Rapinoe give the USA a significant edge, but the central midfield may have to take more control for this exciting team to end up with gold.

10 comments about "High drama, great goals, a step closer to glory".
  1. jordao jordao, August 7, 2012 at 12:25 a.m.

    Biased reporting. Canada had USA on their heels the whole game. The Norwegian ref made many more mistakes in the US's favor. To call the goalkeeper on a rarely used six second rule in such an important game? And to call a hand ball in the box on the ensuing play, when it was clearly a ball to arm, the arm being next to the body, and the player with her BACK to the ball! Sad. The better team is not facing Japan in the final. Sinclair was obviously the MVP of the game with her hat trick keeping Canada in the lead for most of the game. Gawd...

  2. jordao jordao, August 7, 2012 at 12:28 a.m.

    Morgan dives, apparently.

  3. Carl Grover, August 7, 2012 at 1:31 a.m.

    Suck it up dao and watch the game closer. Both teams played great and it produced a very exciting game.

  4. Kent Pothast, August 7, 2012 at 1:57 a.m.

    We fans of the University of Portland wish that Sophie Schmidt had scored on her attempt to make it six goals for U of P.
    2 for Megan, 3 for Christine and one for Sophie.

  5. Bruce Mazurkewicz, August 7, 2012 at 8:13 a.m.

    No such thing as a handball in soccer - the penal foul is called deliberate handling - learn the Laws if you wish to comment on them - the defender was facing the ball, turned her body, and raised her forearm to block the ball as it was going to go past her on goal - great call by the referee. Canadians hacked the daylights out of Morgan and Tancredi should have been sent off about 6 times - she's nothing but a thug.

  6. Ken Jamieson, August 7, 2012 at 9:22 a.m.

    These are excerpts from guidelines for officials from the FIFA Laws of the Game 2012-13:
    Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm. The referee must take the following into considerations:
    - the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
    - the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
    - the position of the hand does not necessarily mean there is an infringement
    - touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc) counts as an infringement
    - hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc) counts as an infringement.
    Clearly the referee failed to take all these factors into account.
    Furthermore, a clear handball in the US penalty area was not called earlier in the game. I know inconsistent officiating when I see it.
    In response to your comments about Canadian thuggery, Bruce, the Americans are not only known, but make it clear they use every means of physical intimidation in their game. The Canadians are the first team to match American toughness and the Americans didn't like it, perhaps that's why they had such a difficult time putting Canada away.

  7. Luis Arreola, August 7, 2012 at 10:32 a.m.

    Ken, well put. Not a penalty. Too close to be deliberate. It was offky close to 6 seconds before and this is usually called at 8-10 seconds if called. Ref called it after punt. He made 2 consecutive bad calls. It seems Usa picks its players mostly for physical play but thinks a team like Canada is dirty? Great Game. What a shame.

  8. Steven Malsin, August 7, 2012 at 11:04 a.m.

    Fair to say that the "truth" (if it can be divined) is somewhere between Bruce and Ken. The "deliberate act" referred to in the Laws of the Game is not equivalent of an act with INTENTION to touch or handle the ball, it is a volitional movement of the arm and/or hand; when that volitional movement results in contact with the ball, "deliberate handling" must be considered. And, yes, distance from the origin of flight is important. As with so many calls of the center, judgement and subjectivity are in play: this was a tough call: just as clearly Sesselman (was it she??) moved her arm and body, it was volitional, and time to react to and AVOID the contact that resulted. Was it an open and shut hand ball? No, but rarely is it and that's what makes the job of the center so difficult in big matches, any match. As to the 6 second rule, McLeod 10 minutes or so before she was called, also held the ball for 10, 12, or more seconds--I was struck by how long she held before she released it, and that probably drew the warning from the AR. The second time, imo, was a "correct" call to enforce the rules, even if not strictly speaking the "right" call. I'm a Yank, thought it was a superb match, did think the girls in white deserved better, but don't think the US deserved to lose either. Morgan WAS taken down twice in the area shortly after the PK, and the only reason none of those fouls was called, again, imo, was that the ref had just awarded the penalty and that clouded her ability to make the "right" call at the time. I also think Wambach was taken down with a scissors tackle during this stretch, but that might have been Morgan too.

  9. Thomas Brannan, August 7, 2012 at 12:02 p.m.

    Sociologically speaking there are three things that govern peoples lives. 1) Law, 2) Values and 3) Custom. That 6 sec. call was not a customary application of the law. The PK might not have been given in the EPL.
    Seen John Herdman in Chicago a number of years ago. New Zealand vs. USA.
    His practice was immaculate. Balls stacked triangulation style, coaches in the upper deck of Soldier Field filming. Pattern play with a purpose. Afterwards a coaching presentation. One of his folders on his desktop shown on the screen,his work but not part of the presentation was, "Chelsea mid field rotation". The USAs practice was 10 v 10 + 1. Enough said.

  10. Thomas Brannan, August 7, 2012 at 1:12 p.m.

    Just a sampling: McCleod holding the ball after a save and on her feet.
    1) 57:49, 17 seconds no call,
    2) 58:50, 12 seconds, no call,
    3) 60:11, 17 seconds, no call
    4) 76:58, 8.71 seconds, THE CALL.
    Rapinoe more of a "handball" than Tancredi.
    Just so no one thinks I am one sided look at Rapinoe at 59:20,turns a Canadian player with a head ball and immediate spin to go get it. If Cruyff or Best did it, it would be on highlight films forever.

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