Women’s soccer earns World Cup rematch — barely

The U.S. women get "outscampered" by Canada, but survive to earn another shot at the Japanese

Topics: 2012 Summer Olympics, Women's soccer, Hope Solo, Hope Solo Chastain, Hope Solo Twitter, Alex Morgan, U.S. Japan rematch,

Women's soccer earns World Cup rematch -- barelyUnited States' Alex Morgan, center, celebrates with teammates including Abby Wambach, left, and Sydney Leroux after the winning goal was scored past Canada's goalkeeper Erin Mcleod during their semifinal women's soccer match at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester, England. (AP Photo/) (Credit: AP/Jon Super)

The big Olympics story today, at least for Americans, was supposed to be gymnastics. But Gabby Douglas didn’t win, and the U.S. women’s soccer team almost didn’t win either, and that makes them the bigger story.

If Andy Murray’s victory over Roger Federer Sunday is a story of redemption, just think about what it’s going to be like on Thursday when the U.S women’s soccer team gets a rematch against Japan with a gold medal on the line.

There are those who would argue Team USA’s World Cup loss last summer to the Japanese far outweighs whatever happens in London this week; after all, they say, soccer really doesn’t even belong in the Olympics. To this I would reply: They were saying the same thing about tennis a short time ago. So now ask Andy Murray if the gold medal means as much to him as whatever they give the winner at Wimbledon.

Thursday’s anticipated match, though, came very close to not happening. On Monday, the American women ran into a buzzsaw named Christine Sinclair, the star of the Canadian women’s national team, who gave the day its most unexpected thrill.

Unexpected, that is, because the U.S women have not lost to Canada since 2001 and were 22-0-4 in their last 26 meetings before Monday. But the feisty team came within a wisp of pulling off one of the biggest upsets in women’s soccer this decade, and maybe this century.

Out-hustling and even out-muscling our girls, they led 1-0 at the half and ran off the field as if a table full of Tim Horton’s awaited them in the locker room. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong with the U.S., but British soccer commentator Arlo White pinned it down: “The Canadians are simply out-scampering the Americans!” Yes, that was it. We were being out-scampered.

Also, I think Canadian coach John Herdman energized his team with a shrewd psychological ploy when he accused the U.S. women of “dirty” soccer; actually the term Herdman used was “highly illegal” blocking tactics. The result was that the Americans seemed to be holding back from physical contact, especially on those corner kicks near Canada’s goal.

Before the second half, Brandi Chastain, who was doing the commentary with White, noted that the American team needed to get back to being “possession-oriented,” and they did, with possessions that would have impressed Linda Blair, scoring three second-half goals.

The problem was that Canada did a little possessing, too. You may recall last week that Chastain made some mild criticism of Team USA’s defense, which drove U.S. goalie Hope Solo to a Twitter temper fit. Brandi, she implied, didn’t understand that the game had changed. Changed to what, exactly? In the second half, the raggedness of the U.S. defense made Chastain’s criticisms seem prescient; the Canadians took so many shots on goal that Solo seemed without hope.

The Americans needed someone to step up, and several did. Co-captain Abby Wambach gave the team a pep talk, challenging her teammates to find one moment of brilliance. Alex Morgan took her up on it, looping in a six-yard header in the third and final minute of injury time, securing a 4-3 win and setting up the big one with the Japanese on Thursday. (Japan’s 2-0 victory over France earlier in the day was much closer than the score indicated.)

I’d like to give my own pep talk to our women: Tell Hope Solo to just shut up and play.

- – - – - – - – - – - -  -

Yesterday I quoted a proud British fan who told an NBC reporter at the Olympics, “You know, if you consider the number of our medals compared to our population, we are No. 1 per capita!”

However, Steven Lubet, a law professor at Northwestern University and author of, among other books, “Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers and Slavery on Trial,” tells me the British fan is only correct if he’s talking about the top three medal-winning countries – China, the U.S. and Great Britain. “With 40 medals and 62 million people, the U.K. per capita is roughly one medal per 1,550,000. Pretty good, but not as good as Australia’s 21 medals with 22 million people or one per every 1.04 million Aussies. Cyprus is even better, with a single medal for its 838,000 citizens (on the competing Greek side of the island).

“Jamaica beats them all, with four medals and 3 million people, or one for every 750K – better than twice the rate for Mother England. But now that Kirani James won the 400-m for the first gold medal ever for Grenada, the island country, with 110,000 citizens,  is the new medal-per-capita winner.”

As a consolation to our British friends, Lubet offers: “All the more medal-heavy countries were once part of the British Empire.”

Allen Barra cowrote Marvin Miller's memoirs, A Whole Different Ballgame. His latest book is Mickey and Willie: The Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>