Thursday, August 9, 2012

USA Women Golden; Richland’s Solo gets second Olympic gold medal

It was not the best the United States women’s national team has played, but the standout performance of Carli Lloyd with two goals and a few quality timely saves from Richland’s Hope Solo along with a little fortune from the decisions of the referee guided the United States to a third consecutive gold medal and fourth overall in five tournaments.

The United States took command of the scoreboard early with a good series of play from Shannon Boxx, Kelley O’Hara and Tobin Heath that got the ball to Alex Morgan (Seattle Sounders Women) in the box. Morgan took the ball to the end line before cutting a cross back into the six where Lloyd got her head on it in a crowd. It was Morgan's team-leading fifth assist of the Olympics.

While the US had the scoreline advantage, the Japanese took control on the pitch with good possession and several quality chances. Solo (Seattle Sounders Women) came up with fantastic saves back-to-back. In the 17th minute a shot from Nahomi Kawasumi got past Solo and was stopped by Christine Rampone, deflecting off Solo and to an on-rushing Yuki Ogimi whom the keeper stuffed point-blank. A minute later Ogimi directed a well-paced header just under the bar off a nice cross only to see Solo flash her hands up at the last second and send it over.

The US found a bit of fortune courtesy of referee Bibiana Steinhaus when she did not award Japan what should have been a penalty kick for an obvious handball in the box by Heath on an Aya Miyama free kick in the 26th. The Japanese nearly added to that fortune two minutes later when Azusa Iwashimizu headed the ball off the team’s own post. Miyama, though, sent a nice effort off the crossbar at the other end in a near-equalizer in the 33rd minute.

A minute into the second half the US again saw the benefit of another non-call. A Miyama free kick from the left side was dropping down into the six where Saki Kumagi could have had a chance at it were she not falling to the ground with Rachel Buehler’s armed wrapped around her in a hug that could have been called for a penalty as Solo punched the ball away.

Then, in the first portion of the game in which the Japanese relaxed, Lloyd struck again for her fourth goal of the tournament – one behind team leader Abby Wambach – and sixth career Olympic goal. She received the ball at midfield in the 54th minute and went and a fast-paced run up the center of the pitch before letting loose a fantastic strike from 21 yards out that was perfectly placed inside the left upright. She joined Tiffeny Milbrett (2000) of the USA to score two goals in an Olympic final.

Japan cut into lead in the 63rd on a nice play that led to a shot from Homare Sawa at the penalty spot that was blocked by Rampone, rebounding out for a second chance effort that was tapped to the side by Sawa and put away past a prone Solo by Ogimi. A similar play 10 minutes later nearly netted an equalizer, but instead resulted in a handball by Lloyd outside the box. Another dangerous free kick from Miyama was blocked by Amy LePeilbet.

Lloyd nearly completed a hat-trick before the Olympic record crowd of 80,203 at Wembley Stadium with eight minutes remaining, ripping another lengthy effort from the left side that whistled over the crossbar.

A minute later, Solo secured her 11th consecutive Olympic victory with a full-stretched save after Mana Iwabuchi got in all alone on the left side of the box after stealing the ball off of Rampone, who is now the first player to ever win three gold medals in the men’s or women’s tournament (she also boasts a silver).

Hope Solo Highlights: 2012 London Final | 2008 Beijing Final

Canada finds late winner of its own for bronze

The Canadian women’s national team gave CONCACAF what will be its third medal of the Olympics with the Mexican men playing for a gold medal Saturday. Canada edged France, 1-0, in a dramatic stoppage time winner, just as the US had done to them three days ago. After nearly scoring on a free kick moments earlier, Diana Matheson delivered the ball inside the box to longtime Vancouver Whitecap Sophie Schmidt, whose effort deflected off a French defender two minutes into stoppage time and came to Matheson for the winner and first-ever Olympic medal for the team. Former Whitecaps striker Christine Sinclair finished as the tournament’s top scorer with six goals.