A 500th international match to remember

[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)
Att.: 26,640.

10 comments about "A 500th international match to remember".
  1. Joseph Pratt, August 7, 2012 at 10:53 a.m.

    Herdman's moaning is ridiculous. He really sounds like a baby, and he's certainly in denial about who was the better team. Try acting with class and move on.
    Same for Solo. Yes, her remarks are in keeping with her pattern, but, speaking as a former keeper, I'm no fan of keepers laying blame on their defenders.

  2. Barry Ulrich, August 7, 2012 at 12:19 p.m.

    Once the GK has the ball under control, the Law gives the GK roughly 6-8 seconds to put the ball into play. Up until the Ref whistled for time wasting, the Canadian GK had been taking far longer to put the ball back into play than the Law allows. What we don't know is whether the Ref ever talked to the GK about her time wasting.

  3. Mark Johnston, August 7, 2012 at 12:28 p.m.

    As a dual US-Canadian citizen, this game was almost too much to watch ! A Nowegian ref is really not going to give the USA too much- think of the great rivaly USA and Norway had in the past. Canada is complaining, but anytime you score 3 goals and loose, you lost control of the game yourself.
    USA had much of the game and if finished half of their own changes, plus hitting post, plus that absolute reckless tackle in the box on Morgan that should have been a PK, this game would have finished quite different.

  4. Mark Johnston, August 7, 2012 at 12:31 p.m.

    Should have added, this will take the USA-Canada rivaly to another level. I hope the crowds when these two play will increase, especially in Canada.
    I still think if Canada can pull the Bronze, that is still a good boost for their program.

  5. Bill Anderson, August 7, 2012 at 12:33 p.m.

    No doubt Canada should feel hard done. Not just the officiating, but their lack of ability to finish off the US. Soccer is a cruel game. I admire the US women for their famous fighting spirit and never say die attitude. We could all learn something from their will to win. Canada will need to develop more of a killer instinct and keep it out of the hands of the officials.

  6. John Soares, August 7, 2012 at 12:34 p.m.

    USA was statistically the better team... Coming from behind three times makes them, emotionally the better team.... According to several reports the goalie had been warned at least twice.... This was not the best game "ever" by a USA team but, probably the most exciting. Considering all the goals. Having said all of that. You still have to feel for Canada and Sinclair... (not the coach). They put on a great effort. Still the best team won!

  7. Jack Aldridge, August 7, 2012 at 2:32 p.m.

    A real shame the Canadians had to lose that way. Bad officiating in Soccer is pandemic though.

  8. David Whitehouse, August 7, 2012 at 5:44 p.m.

    Interesting to read the follow up SA article, which mentioned how long the Canadian keeper was holding the ball.
    As a ref I would warn a goalie once, maybe twice if they were young, before awarding the IFK. The first year or two of the rule you saw infractions, but then goalies got used to it and it'a a rare bird.
    The Ref was actually quite lenient.
    Canada's coach said "we didn't want to launch it", but that's the point - his keeper was trying to gain an unfair advantage by continually holding on to the ball until her team could reorganize - she obviously didn't want to see the ball coming right back at her.
    The Keeper's behavior was obviously coached, and the Coach should have been embarrassed, not angry - he brought the IFK onto his own team.

  9. Luis Arreola from Athletico SC, August 7, 2012 at 8:14 p.m.

    Bill said it best in pther article. Would have been the right call had it ever been called before in the Olympcs or if hade been called consistently throughout these Olympics. How about we count how many times this call should have been made ineach game before this? If you are going to inforce a law like this that has been mostky ignored for ever then you must do so at the start of a tourney in pregae notifying coaches abd captaons youwill do so. You ct just decide to do it lte in a semi game like this and only after you have let the opposing goaie do it a cople times. Solo could have been taking long to release to play for a tie as well. A former Usa Soccer Olympian agrees that this call should have never been made along with the handball penalty and said it on national tv. I think she woud know what she is talking about.

  10. Celeste Easter, August 8, 2012 at 9:58 p.m.

    Why is it that no one has mentioned that the Canadians were fortunate to not be playing with 10 players when Tancreti intentionally stomped on Carli Lloyds head in the 55th minute? Then the keeper admitted that she had been warned at half time by an AR but dismissed it as just another admonishment. Robbed? Really?

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