- Last Updated: 3:17 PM, August 7, 2012
- Posted: 3:22 AM, August 7, 2012
MANCHESTER, England — Ninety-plus minutes had been played and that wasn’t enough. This was no regular game, so to have it decided in regulation time surely would not suffice.
So we would have overtime and then, perhaps, penalty kicks, the most unsavory way of all to decide a soccer match that would deserve more.
The U.S. women’s soccer team is more familiar with the cruel fate of penalty kicks than most, having watched its World Cup dreams shattered by Japan in the final last summer in the crapshoot process of penalty kicks.
Penalty kicks deciding last night’s thrilling Olympic semifinal match at Old Trafford, where Premier League matches played there end in draws, would have been a disservice to this game, the players playing in it and the millions of fans watching.
So, as the U.S. and Canadian sides — tied 3-3 at the end of regulation with a date in Thursday’s gold-medal match against Japan hanging in the balance — huddled before the first of two 15-minute overtime periods, Abby Wambach had something to say.
Wambach, the veteran leader of the team and a prolific scorer, gathered her U.S. teammates together and told them the same thing she said last summer when they overcame Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals.
“I know I said this before, but it really does take just one moment, one moment of brilliance from one individual to do something spectacular,’’ Wambach told her teammates.
The individual brilliance Wambach called for came in the form of an Alex Morgan game-winning header off a cross from Heather O’Reilly of East Brunswick, N.J. It came seconds before the end of the second overtime with the match in danger of going to the dreaded penalty kicks.
Now the Americans get Japan again, which is what they have wanted since their heartbreak last summer.
“All of us have had nightmares about what happened last summer, and now, with one more win, we can let last summer go,’’ Wambach said.
“If we are not able to walk away with a gold medal, it’s going to hurt — especially after what happened in the World Cup,’’ said Carli Lloyd of Delran, N.J. “This can make up for the World Cup. This is a rematch. This is redemption for us. We all know what we felt last summer. It hurt for a really long time. We’ve got to rattle them.’’
The beauty of this U.S. women’s team is that it does not rattle easily. It was down 2-0 to France in the first match of this Olympic tournament, went on to win 4-2 and hasn’t looked back.
“There is something to be said about this team finding ways to win, but we tend to keep things interesting,’’ said Megan Rapinoe, who scored the first two goals. “We usually have to come back once — that’s part of our trademark — but we came back three times. We never think we’re out of it. There is huge heart and huge fight on this team.’’
Lloyd said what’s “special’’ about this team is they “find a way.’’
“I think we are trying to gain more fans,’’ she joked. “I think we’re trying to give people back home heart attacks.”
Wambach said, “We are unwilling to give up. This team believes in itself. But I don’t know why we make things so dramatic.’’
Don’t call them drama queens. That would be an insult. They are, however, queens of drama.