It was the story Americans love to tell. Hollywood has told this story of its collective conscious dozens of times, but never this well.
64th minute. The U.S. had taken an early lead on an own-goal. The first half had been an uneven sorting-out, and after the half Brazil had come out more assertively and more frustrated.
The game was heating up as both sides were creating chances when Brazil’s Marta, five time player of the year, got goal-side of Rachel Buehler and they both hit the ground in a tumble of legs.
The ref pointed to the penalty spot, pulled out her red card, and the US was down to ten players.
In order for a soccer game to be truly satisfying, as Nick Hornby wrote, there has to be at least one outrageously bad call that goes against the team you want to win, but it can’t stop your team from ultimately winning. Feeling aggrieved turns feeling relieved into feeling vindicated, as if the world is indeed as it should be.
That’s another story Americans love to tell.
The US played better with ten players, as if they knew the underdog story was theirs to tell. But credit the coach with shrewd tactical shifts.
The teams played out the regular game then went into two short halves to see if a winner could emerge.
92nd minute Marta put Brazil ahead with deft redirection few players could match.
More controversy: was there an offside on the play?
Then time-wasting, missed opportunities, and the US was into extra time in the final half, down 2-1 with a minute to go when US midfielder Megan Rapinoe hit an inch perfect cross from the left side on to the head of Abby Wambach who hit it home with thunder.
This is the story the US loves to tell. Every American knew they’d win in the penalty shoot-out. It was destiny.
The US was first. Shannon Boxx shot. It was saved. But the ref calls for a retake. Boxx... MAKES!
Brazil’s Cristiane from the spot…1-1.
Brazil's Marta... MAKES! 2-2.
Brazil's Daiane... SAVE!
Rapinoe... MAKES! 4-2 USA.
Francielle... MAKES! Krieger to win it.
USA wins. It couldn’t be any other way.
Immediately after the game, the ESPN announcer asked USA coach Pia Sundhage about the come from behind victory: "I come from Sweden, and this American attitude is contagious."
And it is. The packed German stadium booed Marta when she touched the ball and chanted, "U. S. A. U. S. A."
US soccer needed it. The US Men’s team’s loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup was a bitter loss, and to some, further evidence that the entire men’s system needs to be torn down, the managers and administrative overseers need to be booted out, replaced, and put out of our collective misery.
Another story Americans believe in is the one of progress, that through hard work everything is possible. To not live up to that is to fail and the US Men’s team has not progressed.
But in sport as in life, American women so often come through when the men are struggling. US soccer needed heroes and it got them. It’s a story for the ages.