They did it again. For the fifth consecutive Olympics, the US women are headed to the final.
And this time, they’re doing so on perhaps the emotional high of a lifetime. In one of the most thrilling, heart-stopping games of the past year – heck, maybe even all-time – Alex Morgan scored a dramatic 123rd-minute winner with just ticks of the clock remaining to give the US a controversial 4-3 victory over Canada. (HIGHLIGHTS)
“For some reason we like to make things dramatic,” forward Abby Wambach said. “I’m speechless. This is ridiculous.”
"I can't remember ever feeling this way after scoring a goal," Morgan added. "It's just so exhilarating.”
And at this point, “exhilarating” is simply what the US women are known for. (VIDEO)
Tuesday’s match marked the second time in the past year that they’ve thrilled the nation with an epic knockout victory. After knocking off Brazil in last summer’s World Cup, the US will get another chance at revenge when they face Japan, the team that ended their dream in 2011, in Thursday’s final in London.
In the wake of Tuesday’s victory, one columnist argued that the US have been a part of the three “most memorable athletic contests” of the past year, and even Samuel L. Jackson took to Twitter to show his support.
Perhaps Wambach, who coolly slotted home the game-tying penalty kick said it best.
The Canadians, however, didn't think there was anything cool about the match. From their perspective, the overriding feeling was that moments like Tuesday’s semifinal are what make sports so cruel.
In what was the biggest decision of the match, Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen whistled a six-second delay of game on Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod, giving the Americans a free kick that eventually struck an arm in the box and led to the game-tying goal from the penalty spot with just under 10 minutes remaining. Wambach finished the penalty kick, and Morgan put the final nail in the coffin in extratime to break the Canadian's hearts.
Star striker Christine Sinclair, who scored all three of Canada’s goals, summed up her feelings afterwards into 36 words, all of which made it crystal clear how devastating the defeat was for a team that appeared to have the final in their sights with minutes remaining.
"We feel like we didn't lose, we feel like it was taken from us," said Sinclair. "It's a shame in a game like that, which is so important, that the ref decided the result before the game started.”
Coach John Herdman also laid the blame at the feet of Pederson for making what is certainly an exceedingly rare call, one US coach Pia Sundhage said even she hadn’t seen before, and labelled the victory lucky.
"The ref will have to sleep in bed tonight after watching the replays," Herdman said. "She's got that to live with that. We'll move on from this, I wonder if she'll be able to.”
Check out ESPN's roundup from the game, and tune in to NBC Sports Network at 2:30 pm ET on Thursday for the final from Wembley Stadium.
Speaking of the US, The New York Times looks at Jurgen Klinsmann's options for a roster for the Americans' upcoming match against Mexico at Estadio Azteca.
US Soccer will also be in the news this week as the Seattle Sounders and Sporting KC battle in the US Open Cup on Wednesday at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Seattle are looking for their fourth straight title, while Kansas City are dealing with some injury issues as they look to add a midseason championship to what they hope will be an MLS Cup-winning season. Check out the Kansas City Star's breakdown of Sporting's victory this weekend leading into the match. Meanwhile, one columnist thinks Seattle has "MLS Cup credentials" as well.
MLSsoccer.com will host a US Open Cup Pregame Show, a live video, starting at 8 pm ET, an hour before kickoff at 9 pm ET on GolTV.
Come Wednesday, Seattle or Sporting will walk away with a title. And although the Red Bulls will have to wait if they want silverware, New York's Eric Soler says his team is built for a run this season.
With Tim Cahill in the fold, Hans Backe doesn't expect Joel Lindpere to contribute to that run from central midfield. In other news, English winger Lloyd Sam is also on trial with the club.
Thousands of miles away in British Columbia, one columnist wonders if Vancouver are for real.
Finally, the US soccer community continues to mourn the death of Columbus Crew midfielder Kirk Urso. The coroner said Tuesday that it appears Urso suffered no trauma and died “an apparent natural death.”
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