USWNT Wins Its Fourth Olympic Gold Medal: Four Thoughts from the Historic Victory

August 9, 2012

The USWNT continued its remarkable Olympic history on Thursday winning its fourth Olympic Gold medal in five tournaments with a 2-1 victory over Japan.

With the win, the U.S. reasserted itself as world champions by avenging their bitter loss to Japan in last summer’s World Cup.

Here are four thoughts from the match.

Amy LePeilbet overcame a rough first half

In the first half, almost every successful attack Japan launched at the U.S. came down the U.S.’ right side.

LePeilbet was too narrow and too high twice in the first 17 minutes, the second time resulting in a very good chance for the Japanese that they failed to capitalize on.

LePeilbet was again beat badly in the 33rd minute resulting in a chance that Japanese put off the U.S.’ crossbar and then shortly thereafter in the 40th minute killed a good attacking opportunity putting her service behind the Japanese goal and out of play.

However, LePeilbet played better in the second half overcoming her difficult start and even had a terrific “hockey stop” late in the game where she went down to her knees to keep the ball from crossing the U.S. goalline.

Hope Solo was HUGE

Time after time, Solo came up with the saves the U.S. needed to stay in the game.

In the 17th minute, Solo came off her line to stuff a second chance opportunity and less than a minute later had a world-class push to stop a Japanese header which was headed into the upper 90.

Solo was big again with a great punch off a set-piece in traffic in the 46th minute and had another world class save in the 83rd minute saving the U.S. after a poor giveaway in the defensive third.

Coming into the tournament with the reputation as the world’s best goalkeeper, Solo did not disappoint.

Japan’s possession game is absolutely beautiful

Japan’s system of play emphasizes possession from endline-to-endline and their performance on Thursday was another demonstration of how well they execute it.

In the defensive third, in situations when many teams simply hoof the ball away, Japan never seems panicked. Instead, they calmly worked the ball out of traffic again and again by using their width and their goalkeeper to break pressure. The added advantage of this tactic was that it forced USWNT forwards Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan to do a lot of extra running as they were forced to chase the game.

In the attacking third, Japan demonstrated a calmness on the ball that can only be rivaled by Spain’s men’s team in the international game. Even when surrounded by two, three or even four USWNT players, the Japanese smoothly moved the ball forward and backwards and side-to-side until they could find a gap in the U.S. defense.

The Japanese strategy of “total football” in the final third is also remarkable as the interchanging of their forwards and midfielders, as well as their flank defenders coming forward, caused problems for the U.S. all night long.

Japan’s one goal came on a beautiful interchange in which they shredded the U.S. defense with a great overlapping run out of their midfield.

The U.S. certainly rode its luck

The U.S. once again had more than a few shaky moments in the back including miscommunication between their center backs, poor clearances, bad giveaways and a non-call on an apparent Tobin Heath handball.

However, the U.S. effort was, as always, world-class, with defenders throwing their bodies on the line, working hard to help each other defensively and proving they were willing to go the extra mile to be champions.

Congratulations to the USWNT on their incredible fourth Olympic Gold medal.

John D. Halloran

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6 Responses to USWNT Wins Its Fourth Olympic Gold Medal: Four Thoughts from the Historic Victory

  1. DE Dupuis on August 9, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Not so much on this game, but as a whole during the whole tournament, the USWNT deserved the win. In this game the needed a bit of luck, all of their grit and hard work, and their talent to hang in there and win.

    Solo had a great game, and anything good you want to say about her I’ll agree with – for now.

    The whole tournament underscored a painful truth about the team, they win despite Pia not because of her. Maybe her women management is so wonderful that her crazy dumb game coaching doesn’t hurt so bad. Consider:

    Morgan, clearly the team’s best player for a couple of years is only recently a regular starter.

    Rapinoe, clearly one of the team’s best player for years, is only recently a regular starter, and Pia keeps taking her off.

    Lloyd, the final’s women of the match and one of the players of the tournament had lost her place based on Pia’s assessment.

    Against France, Lloyd and Chenney showed how our midfield should work in our playing scheme, Pia tinkered with the midfield, usually to its determent thereafter.

    In todays game our defensive “shape” was two lines of 4. When the midfield 4 was beaten, the Japanese were in on our backs. There was little shape, it was amateur. Boxx is a good player, but not as good (not nearly) as Lloyd or Chenney. What was Pia doing playing her today?

    This team of players however, is marvelous – I’ll say it, the best ever. This group will continue to win for quite a while, particularly if they find a few more like O’Hara to tighten up the defense.

    JD you did quite a bit to raise the profile of the team and make caring about them seem worth the effort – well done.

  2. John D. Halloran on August 9, 2012 at 8:12 pm


    Thank you for the kind words. I would agree with you that the one thing that is tough, probably impossible, to criticize Pia on is how she has managed the players as people. It can’t be easy when you have that many world-class players to choose from. And keeping your bench players happy when they could easily start for almost any team in the world has to be brutally hard.

    Her substitutions are sometimes difficult to understand, however.

    I’d like to see the coaching staff take a shot at making A-Rod or O’Reilly an outside back like they did with O’Hara. They both have good speed, would not need to be prodded into getting forward and both will probably continue find it difficult to find playing time in their current positions.

    • DE Dupuis on August 10, 2012 at 9:22 am

      Yeah, genius idea – I vote for you for coach.

      Super Mom will surely retire some day – although OMG can she still motor – although I (and maybe everyone else) had no idea what she was doing there, that transition (80 yard) run she made being Alex’s only outlet at the end of the game was amazing. If she does retire Amy LeP can move inside and one of your speedier women can mirror O’Hara on the right.

      Keep up the good work.

      • John D. Halloran on August 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm

        Physically, Rampone is a freak of nature. That kind of speed and fitness at that age. Ridiculous.

  3. Bud on August 10, 2012 at 1:18 am

    I have to agree that Japan’s possession game is amazing to watch. The way they build it out of the back and have midfielders running off balls played to the forwards works marvelously. I did feel that they broke down a bit at the end of the game though. I think they felt the pressure in the last 5-10 minutes and abandoned the build-up game for the long ball. While I understand why they would do this, I think it actually produced less chances for them in the end.

    The U.S. definitely had some luck on their side. First, the obvious handball that went without a call was a bit surprising. Second, the takedown by Buehler in the box on a set play for Japan also seemed pretty obvious, granted viewers at home do have the benefit of replay. However, the U.S. showed great spirit throughout the game. They played on only three days rest after the extra time match. It should be noted that it was more than 123 minutes of playing time in that game. I got annoyed at the announcer for continually saying it was 123 minutes. If he is going to count the 3 minutes of stoppage time in the second extra time, then he should count the stoppage time at the end of the halves and first extra time as well. Given the long previous game and the short rest due to the Olympic schedule, they showed a lot of guts laying their bodies on the line, literally on several occasions, to keep the ball out of the back of the net.

    I too dislike when Rapinoe is subbed out the game. She makes great runs on the wing and has excellent service play into the box.

    I think this is a great rivalry. I look forward to watching it develop over the years. It seems to be made even better by the contrasting styles of the physically dominant U.S. team and the intellectual patience oriented style of the Japanese team.

    • John D. Halloran on August 10, 2012 at 7:12 am

      Yeah, forgot to mention when Buehler rugby tackled the Japanese girl in the box on that set piece. Although it happens all the time, and goes uncalled, it definitely could have been a pk.

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