You want drama, excitement and breathless action from watching soccer? Well, that's what the U.S. and Canada offered in a thrilling 4-3 win for the United States.
We had a Christine Sinclair hat trick. We had a United States team that came back three separate times. We had controversial calls. We had overtime. And as is the American way, we had a stoppage-time winner in overtime to move the U.S. to the gold-medal match against Japan.
If you'll excuse me, I just need a moment to take a breath. This one was that good. Let's take a look back at the most memorable game of the Olympics thus far.
Surprisingly, the scoring opened with a Canadian goal when star forward Christine Sinclair received a pass in space just outside the box, took a brilliant touch to evade a defender and clinically scored past a hopeless Hope Solo.
But that was the peak of excitement in the first half. It was in the second 45 minutes that the game became epic.
The second-half scoring opened with a funky Megan Rapinoe goal off a corner. Rapinoe sent the ball toward goal off the corner, Sinclair seemed to screen Erin McLeod as the ball headed toward goal, and it squeaked just inside the near post for a bizarre tally.
But Sinclair wasn't done, finishing a cross with a fantastic header in the 68th minute. It seemed it might quell the United States' momentum, until Rapinoe blasted a curling goal from just outside the box just three minutes later to tie the game.
But anything Rapinoe could do, Sinclair could do better. Just two minutes later, she notched a hat trick and gave Canada a 3-2 lead off another header.
That's when it got strange. The Americans were awarded the ever-rare indirect free kick after McLeod took too long to take a free kick, and on the preceding free kick the U.S. was awarded a penalty kick after a Canada handball. Abby Wambach stepped up and cooly evened the score.
You could make the argument that the call was unnecessary and unjust, but that's for another day. On this day, overtime it was.
And with both teams scrapping and creating scoring chances and battling all through overtime, it appeared penalty kicks were imminent. But of course—in the second overtime, in the 122nd minute—a Heather O'Reilly cross found Alex Morgan's head, and she scored the game-winning goal.
Unreal. And totally this team's style.
Christine Sinclair, Canada: A+
When you score a hat trick, you get an A+ for your performance. Sinclair was the best player on the pitch all game long, not only scoring goals but also stretching the U.S. defense with penetrating runs and brilliant passes to her teammates.
Her performance may be overshadowed by the dramatic nature of the United States win, but it shouldn't be forgotten. She was phenomenal.
Megan Rapinoe, United States: A
Every time Sinclair seemed poised to steal this game away from the United States, Rapinoe had an answer. She scored the first two goals for the United States, and her shot off the indirect free kick led to Abby Wambach's penalty kick.
Wambach, Hope Solo and Alex Morgan may get most of the headlines, but watch this US team long enough and you'll see that Rapinoe is the heart and soul of this squad. She proved it once again on Monday.
Alex Morgan, United States: B+
Finally, the goal-scoring drought at these Games is over.
Yes, it took Morgan 122 minutes to finally score a goal in this one, her first tally since the Americans' first game against France. But her goal couldn't have been any bigger, preventing penalty kicks and moving the United States to the gold-medal game against Japan.
Plus, despite the fact that she didn't score until late, Morgan was a huge factor in this game. She was a hassle for the Canadian defense, especially late when her work on the left side led to several chances that the team failed to capitalize on. Even when she doesn't score, she has a huge impact on a game.
Ladies and gentlemen, Alex Morgan is a straight-up star.
Abby Wambach, United States: B-
She didn't have her normal impact in this one—Canada defended her on set pieces and crosses very well for the most part—and Wambach missed a few chances you generally expect her to put away, but when the team needed her most, she delivered.
I'm talking, of course, about her cool, composed penalty kick that tied the game at three goals apiece in regulation. There are a handful of players on the planet you want taking the shot, and she's one of them.
So no, she didn't dominate. But she came through in a clutch moment that ultimately sent the game to overtime, and for that she should be lauded.
We start with Christine Sinclair's first goal in the first half, which ESPN Stats & Info notes ended the United States streak of keeping the opposition off the board:
Christine Sinclair scores for Canada at 22'. First goal allowed by US since 14' in 1st game vs France. 360+ scoreless minutes streak gone— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 6, 2012
As Grant Wahl notes, the U.S. team hasn't (hadn't) lost to Canada in a long, long time. Of course, we said that before it played Japan last summer, too...
38' Canada 1:0 USA. US has gone 26 games & 11 years without losing to Canada. Eerily similar numbers before Japan game in World Cup final.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) August 6, 2012
And Arlo White (who calls a great game, doesn't he?) added that Canada hasn't so much as led the Americans in quite some time.
But in all honesty, this game didn't get good—nay, epic—until the second half. At one point, it was basically a contest between Sinclair and Rapinoe, as Wahl noted.
5 goals in USA-Canada, all scored by former University of Portland players (Rapinoe & Sinclair). #SIeod— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) August 6, 2012
The game was so good, even the referee wanted to watch, as Dan Levy sarcastically pointed out.
The referee has the best seat in the house for this match. She hasn't blown her whistle in about 10 minutes either way.— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) August 6, 2012
This olympic women's soccer match between us and canada is a crazy match. #leggoUsa— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) August 6, 2012
This women's soccer game between Canada and the US is crazy!!!!— Ricky Romero (@RickyRo24) August 6, 2012
Of course, the U.S. women may have gotten a lucky break to send the game into overtime in the first place, according to Frank Isola. The indirect free kick probably never should have been called.
Canada has a legit beef. Call made by the referee's assistant which led to the hand ball was a joke. U.S. women lucky to be in overtime— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) August 6, 2012
And then there was Alex Morgan.
Alex Morgan. Just. Got. Buckets.— SportsNation (@SportsNation) August 6, 2012
GGGGGGOOOOOOAAALLLLLLLL !!— Brian Dawkins (@BrianDawkins) August 6, 2012
the pass from Heather O'Reilly was so on point. Morgan soared at the right time. What an amazing game-winning goal— Jason McIntyre (@TheBigLead) August 6, 2012
Wow. Speechless. Epic game. Canada so courageous. USA once again redefines RESILIENT. I LOVE SOCCER. Congrats USA!!! Thank u for that.— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) August 6, 2012
What else needs to be said other than that?
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