Olympic Soccer: Can United States Women Avenge Past American Disappointments?

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06:  Alex Morgan of of the United States celebrates after scoring during the Women's Football Semi Final match between Canada and USA, on Day 10 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Old Trafford on August 6, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
Stanley Chou/Getty Images

The past four years have given American fans four memorable moments in the country's soccer history.

Those moments have been provided by the best American players: Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan.

After each of the first three memorable moments, the American teams, whether it be the men or the women, have also greatly disappointed their fans.

It all started on June 21, 2009 in South Africa, when the men's national team was on the brink of crashing out of the FIFA Confederations Cup with no points in Group B.

The Americans needed to beat Egypt by three goals and for Brazil to beat Italy by three or more goals.

With the bad luck that the American men had faced in the past, it was easy to believe that they would not advance past the group stage.

In a two-hour span in Rustenburg, South Africa, the American fate in major tournaments had changed, as the men's team beat Egypt by three and Brazil won by three over Italy.

Next up for the men's team was an improbable win over Spain—a year removed from its Euro 2008 title—in the semifinals, as Dempsey clinched a berth in the final for the Americans with a second-half goal.

In the final, the Americans were up two goals on Brazil at halftime. Then the major tournament curse for the Americans began.

The men's team eventually lost to Brazil, 3-2, but returned to South Africa a year later to deliver its fans another improbable moment.

We all know what happened on that fateful night in Pretoria, South Africa at the 2010 World Cup.

Donovan scored in the final minute of the final Group C match against Algeria to lead the Americans to not only the round of 16, but first place in the group.

Yet again, the Americans failed to capitalize on the momentum from a landmark moment in American soccer history, as they lost to Ghana in extra time in their next match.

In 2011, the national spotlight shifted to the always-successful women's team, which before that year's Women's World Cup, was best known for Brandi Chastain and her sports bra after the Americans won the 1999 Women's World Cup on home soil.

This was the team that always won every tournament it entered and was seen as nothing short of invincible in America.

Yet, the women's team was not immune to a big moment that captured the nation, which then led to a major letdown.

In the quarterfinals of that tournament, Wambach scored a goal against Brazil that will forever live in American soccer history as much as Donovan's goal the year before against Algeria.

Wambach's last-minute header in extra time sent the quarterfinal with Brazil into penalties, and the shootout was eventually won by the Americans.

After cruising past France in the semifinal, the Americans were shocked by Japan and their own last-minute heroics in the final.

It was Japan which scored a late goal in extra time and it was Japan which won the Women's World Cup on penalties.

In a time span of only a few minutes, the American women suffered the same deflating blow that the men's team suffered in South Africa.

Fast-forward to the London Olympics, where the American women came in looking for revenge from last year's defeat.

The women's team would not have to share headlines with the men's team, as it failed to even qualify for the Olympics.

2012 would be the year that the women's team would return to the top of its sport.

However, Monday's semifinal against Canada had to have given American soccer fans a strange case of deja vu yet again.

For a fourth straight summer, an American soccer team scored a late, dramatic goal to win a match before the final.

This time, it was Morgan who sent the country into a long line of cheers and tweets that celebrated a dramatic win.

Just like the men's team in South Africa both times and just like the women's team in Germany last year, the signature moment of the tournament came before it all mattered most.

This is where Thursday's Olympic final against Japan comes into the play.

The United States women have a chance to undo everything that went wrong over the past three years for American soccer. 

They can also avenge a crushing defeat that they suffered at the hands of Japan in the World Cup Final last year.

Each American soccer team that provided the country with a dramatic win in the past three years has been a declared a team of destiny in the build-up to a heartbreaking defeat.

On Thursday night, the American women have a chance to do something no American team has done in the past four years: win a major tournament.

For the diehard American soccer fans, like myself, winning the gold medal at Wembley Stadium on Thursday night will mean a lot more than the last gold medal the women won in Beijing.

After seeing both national teams receive shocking defeats after memorable moments, it is time that Americans get a chance to celebrate the last game of their team's tournament with a trophy instead of  sadness and wondering what went wrong.