By Mike Woitalla
The Olympics provided a rare chance for America's soccer-playing girls to see plenty of action from the world's best women players. Fortunately, those who tuned in for the USA's march to their gold medals were treated to high drama, exciting soccer and lots of goals.
Watching high-level soccer and trying to emulate the stars no doubt helps young players improve their skills.
Anson Dorrance, who coached the U.S. women to their first championship, the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991, has said that, "If we get girls to watch, it's going to make them a lot more sophisticated soccer players." At the University of North Carolina he assigns his players to watch high-level games.
Below we have links to video highlights of the USA's successful 2012 Olympic campaign for coaches and parents to share with their soccer-playing youngsters, as well as videos that will help them get to know some of the gold medal stars.
SIX GAME, SIX VICTORIES
THE GOLD MEDAL TRIUMPH. USA 2 JAPAN 1.
Central midfielder Carli Lloyd scored both U.S. goals in the final win over Japan that gave the U.S. women their third straight gold medal and their fourth in the five Olympic tournaments since women's soccer became an Olympic sport in 1996. Video highlights HERE.
THE SPECTACULAR SEMIFINAL. USA 4 CANADA 3.
In one of the greatest women's soccer games ever, the USA came back from 1-goal deficits three times -- with goals from Megan Rapinoe (twice) and Abby Wambach -- before Alex Morgan headed home the gamewinner during stoppage time of the final overtime period. Video highlights HERE.
QUARTERFINAL CRUISE. USA 2 NEW ZEALAND 0.
The Americans dominated New Zealand in a 2-0 win that saw Wambach score in her fourth straight game at these Olympics to provide the first-half lead. Sydney Leroux came off the bench to score the second. (Note the smile on Leroux's face while celebrating her strike.) Video highlights HERE.
GROUP PLAY FINALE. USA 1 NORTH KOREA 0.
The USA had already clinched a quarterfinal spot going into its final group-stage game against North Korea. Wambach's goal, superbly set up by Morgan, secured a first-place finish in the group and with the 1-0 win the Americans for the first time finished the first-round of Olympic play with a perfect 3-0-0 record. Video highlights HERE.
RED-HOT RAPINOE. USA 3 COLOMBIA 0.
Hope Solo was called on for only one save as Rapinoe, Wambach and Lloyd scored in a 3-0 win over Colombia that clinched a quarterfinal spot for the USA. Rapinoe scored with a long-distance rocket and assisted on Lloyd's goal. Video highlights HERE.
SUPER COMEBACK. USA 4 FRANCE 2.
The USA started its Olympic quest against France, touted as among the favorites, and went down 2-0 within 15 minutes. But by halftime it was 2-2, thanks goals by Wambach and Morgan. Lloyd and Morgan, again, struck in the second half of the entertaining opener. Video highlights. HERE.
TOP 5. NBC picked goals by Cristiane (Brazil), Diana Matheson (Canada), Carli Lloyd (USA), Portia Modise (South Africa) and Alex Morgan (USA) as the tournament's top goals. Video HERE.
U.S. WOMEN SING MILEY
While prepping for their gold hunt the U.S. women had some fun creating a lip-synch video to Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA." Video HERE.
RAPINOE THE PRIDE OF REDDING
Megan Rapinoe returns to her hometown of of Redding in Northern California to offer a glimpse of where she grew up and introduces her family. Video HERE.
Alex Morgan shows her childhood home in Diamond Bar in Southern California and offers insight into her youth soccer experience. Video HERE.
Carli Lloyd shows you around her New Jersey home in Delran. Video HERE.
SOLO IN SEATTLE
Goalkeeper Hope Solo gives a tour of her Seattle home that includes introductions to her dogs and mouse-catching cat. Video HERE.
BACK IN INDIANA
Lauren Cheney returns to her childhood home in Indianapolis and introduces the family. Video HERE.