In one of the most thrilling wins of its history, the United States Women’s National Team defeated a stubborn Canada in a thrilling 4-3 double overtime victory Monday afternoon.
Having to come back from deficits on three separate occasions, the USWNT finally won the match on a perfectly placed header by Alex Morgan in the 123rd minute.
The victory pushed the USWNT into the Olympic Gold Medal match where they will once again face Japan, who beat the USWNT in last summer’s World Cup final.
Here are seven thoughts from the amazing win.
Alex Morgan is simply brilliant
Ok, this might not seem like the boldest statement considering her dramatic game-winner, but she showed her class throughout the rest of the game as well.
Even though the Canadian center backs laid very deep the entire match, making it difficult for Morgan to use her trademark speed to get in behind, Morgan still terrorized the Canadian defense all day.
Morgan chased down balls throughout the match putting pressure on the Canadian defense, repeatedly drew fouls in dangerous areas and provided at least six gorgeous services into the box that her teammates were unable to convert.
Tobin Heath was poor again
Heath, who was once again preferred over Heather O’Reilly, had another shaky game following a subpar effort against New Zealand.
Heath repeatedly lost possession (I counted five alone in the first 17 minutes), kept trying to take too many touches every time she got the ball and went invisible for long stretches of the first and second half. When she was moved to the middle in extra time, she continued to give the ball away, many times leading to dangerous Canadian counterattacks.
Heath should have been withdrawn at the half and replaced by O’Reilly, who eventually did come in to bring much needed energy (and a game-winning assist) into the mix.
Christie Rampone had an uncharacteristically poor game
While Rampone did well to keep the Canadian forwards in front of her for most of the game, she was beaten badly on the wing by Melissa Tancredi resulting in Canada’s second goal.
Rampone also was responsible for the American tendency to play kick and run for much of the game as she repeatedly hoofed the ball forward with no apparent target.
The U.S. will need a better effort from its captain come Thursday.
Kelley O’Hara struggled in her first big test
While O’Hara has been playing left back for the past seven months, and done it against world-class competition in many friendlies since then, this was O’Hara’s first pressure game in a major tournament and she struggled.
On Canada’s first goal, Rachel Buehler was forced into trying to defend both Tancredi and Christine Sinclair because O’Hara didn’t stay connected with Buehler. O’Hara was instead marking 40 yards of empty space.
By the time O’Hara did recognize her mistake, she was forced into a lunging attempt at the ball which Sinclair sidestepped to put Canada up early in the match. O’Hara repeated the mistake in the 83rd minute, but thankfully Canadian forward Kaylyn Kyle did not see the wide-open Sinclair.
O’Hara also uncharacteristically lost possession and when she went forward, she took too long to make decisions. And while O’Hara did provide a nice assist to Megan Rapinoe on the U.S.’ second goal, O’Hara was also responsible for Canada’s second goal, once again getting beat by Sinclair, this time in the air.
There is no question that O’Hara is the U.S.’ best option at left back, but she had a poor night.
Megan Rapinoe showed her class, yet again
Over the past year, Megan Rapinoe has been on fire, showing a combination of dribbling, service and shooting that has made her one of the best players in the world.
That class was on display again Monday as Rapinoe first bent her corner kick into the net to bring the Americans equal at one goal apiece and then crushed a world-class strike off the post and in to bring the Americans even at two.
Late in the game Rapinoe did well to repeatedly settle possession for the U.S. and managed to start most of the U.S.’ dangerous attacks in the overtime period.
While Rapinoe appeared a little rushed in the first half and her corner service could have been better, her overall play was terrific.
Where is FIFA finding these officials?
The USWNT suffered through a horrid display of officiating in the New Zealand game and things were no better in the match against Canada. The official repeatedly let Melissa Tancredi hack down Americans all over the pitch with no caution for repeated infringement, the Canadians continually took the Americans down from behind and the official missed two Canadian scissor tackles both of which not only went uncautioned, they also went uncalled.
In a reversal of the poor officiating the USWNT received in last summer’s World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil, the U.S. was on the end of a couple of very favorable calls that changed the game.
Late in the second half with the U.S. trailing and desperately trying to find the equalizer, the official called a questionable six-second delay of game foul on Canada’s keeper Erin McLeod. While she did take more than six seconds (I counted to ten watching the replay), it is not uncommon and is something that is never called.
When the U.S. then took the ensuing kick, the official called a very questionable hand ball call which gave the U.S. a penalty. Abby Wambach converted the kick for the equalizer to make the match 3-3 and send the game into extra time.
Pia Sundhage is mad (or a mad genius)
Late in the game, USWNT head coach Pia Sundhage put the U.S. into a 3-4-3 in an attempt to find the equalizer. Then, in what could be called an extremely gutsy (I’d say suicidal) call, Sundhage elected to leave the U.S. in a 3-4-3 for the remainder of the match, even after the U.S. equalized late in the game.
Once the Canadians were forced to begin attacking again, they repeatedly found space on the right side of the U.S. defense where USWNT Amy LePeilbet had been playing before being withdrawn to add Sydney Leroux as the third forward.
With Canada playing with three forwards, now matched by only three American defenders, this was a very courageous (crazy) decision and easily could have resulted in the game-winning goal for the Canadians.
John D. Halloran