As the United States claims the medal lead at the 2012 summer games, its supporters must credit the incredible group of female athletes that led our nation’s Olympic efforts. From the pool, to the gym, to the track and beyond, American women truly dominated these Olympic Games.
One of the finest accomplishments came on the soccer pitch, where the U.S. Women’s National Team avenged its loss at the 2011 World Cup to capture the gold medal. However, my favorite Olympic moment of the past 2 weeks occurred a game earlier when the USA defeated Canada 4-3 in a thrilling semi-final match at historic Old Trafford on August 6, 2012.
Though the contest will be long remembered for back-and-forth action, no individual moment delivered greater drama than 23 year-old Alex Morgan’s game-winning overtime goal. Despite being an underdog, America’s neighbor to the north excelled and the stage was frustratingly set for another failure. Led by 3 goals from star Christine Sinclair, Canada enjoyed a lead on 3 different occasions during the game.
Yet, the American squad clawed back each time to overcome the deficit. When 90 minutes had finished, the chippy match-up was tied at 3. As a scoreless half hour then concluded, 3 additional minutes of injury time were added and it appeared the contest would be decided by the crap-shoot that is penalty kicks.
This was not a pleasant thought. Despite possessing top goalie Hope Solo, the U.S. National Team frustratingly lost to Japan in last year’s World Cup Final on kicks. That crushing defeat actually saw the Americans similarly surrender 2 leads and yield a late equalizer with only moments left in overtime.
Therefore, when Heather O’Reilly sent a cross in front of the Canadian net with mere seconds left in the game, the Olympic hopes of a nation were truly hurled into the air with the ball. Much was expected of this team, as popular players like Morgan, Solo, and Abby Wambach have become media darlings. Another stinging defeat could change that perception and even haunt the growth of women’s soccer in a country slow to embrace the sport.
The prayers of soccer fans were answered when that ball struck the head of a lunging Morgan and launched beyond the out-stretched reach of Canadian goalie Erin McLeod into the net. The Americans had snatched glorious victory from the grips of bitter defeat. With only seconds in the contest, there would be no penalty kicks this time. The USA won 4-3 and survived to go for gold against the same Japanese at Wembley Stadium 2 days later.
As the United States’ semi-final “Miracle on Ice” hockey triumph over the Soviet Union will similarly be remembered from the 1980 Olympics, this thrilling soccer victory will be the immortalized moment for these 2012 Olympic champions. After all, you cannot play for gold, unless you make the final.
The exquisite Alex Morgan has already posed for stunning photos with Sports Illustrated and is on the cusp of athletic stardom. Her game-winning goal certainly helped solidify such a fate, as did her first Olympic gold medal. The California native tweeted after the game, “So proud of this team, it’s hard to even put into words… wow I love this team.”
I love this team, as well.
Yahoo! Sports, Twitter.com
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Jeff Briscoe is a soccer fan and a regular contributor to the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He talks Olympics 2012 on The Sports Train radio show in Southwest Florida.