For the United States women's soccer team to three-peat a gold medal in the Summer Olympics, Hope Solo is the primary component.
After allowing three goals against Canada in one of the most dramatic and exciting games in U.S. history, Solo came up big with a save toward the end of regulation and again in the beginning of extra time. Facing Japan in the final, though, Solo can't afford to have a down game.
Ahead, let's check out why the American keeper is the most important player for the U.S. to win gold.
Through five games of the Olympics, Japan has allowed just two goals. Even more impressively, they held Canada to only one score and limited a solid offense in France to one goal as well.
In short, the United States isn't going to score three or four times against the Japanese. Regardless of how many chances become present throughout the match, USA won't be able to push the pace as much compared to prior Olympic contests.
Miho Fukumoto is one of the best keepers around, and Solo simply has to match her counterpart, which will ultimately put more pressure on Japan's defense.
This does relate to Japan's defense because the U.S. will have less scoring opportunities, let alone actual goals. In turn, this will put more pressure on Solo to get saves when it matters most.
The final will not be a high-scoring affair where each keeper sees plenty of additional opportunities to negate the opponent. Therefore, Solo must fully capitalize on every attempted goal shot despite that number expected to be much less than previous matches.
After all, the Japanese have allowed just 23 shots on goal and have only attempted 55. With Japan's defense capable of blanking the Americans, she has no choice but to be perfect.
This will be an extremely low-scoring match, and the first country to net the rock will astronomically increase their odds of winning.
Japan may have only scored six goals through five Olympic matches, but Solo must still have her A-game regarding field awareness in the final.
By no means is Japan an explosive offense capable of racking up four-plus goals. However, they do have multiple players who can score when needed. In the Summer Games, five different players have netted a goal for them, and it's no surprise Japan has made a deep run.
Yuki Ogimi is their best offensive player with two goals and 15 attempted shots, and Japan has scored two goals in each of the two bracket games. Simply put, the Japanese offense is arguably playing its best right now, and, even if the USA's defense manages to isolate Ogimi, another player like Aya Miyama will become a threat.
Japan may not push the pace, but they know efficiency and have been making the most of their opportunities in London.
Follow John Rozum on Twitter
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!