Aug. 21, 2008
THE GOLD STANDARD
U.S. women earn Olympic crown for 3rd time on Lloyd's extra-time goal vs. Brazil, 1-0
By Michael Lewis
|The US Women show off their gold medals after Thursday's win over Brazil.
photo by Tony Quinn
Beijing -- Many of their critics said it couldn't be done, but the U.S. Women's National Team managed to mine some Olympic gold once again.
For the second consecutive Olympics, the U.S. was outplayed by Brazil but managed to secure the gold medal with an extratime goal.
Midfielder Carli Lloyd, who struggled with her passes at midfield for most of the match, connected for the dramatic goal some seven minutes into extratime to lift the Americans to a 1-0 triumph at Workers Stadium Thursday night.
The Americans have won three of the four women's soccer gold medals, taking home the 2000 silver in their only failed quest. They also have won in 1996 and 2004.
Four years ago, the US. managed to survive a highly talented Brazilian side in Athens, Greece to win the Olympic crown, 2-1, on an extra-time goal by Abby Wambach.
Wambach, however, could not play in this tournament after breaking her leg in a 1-0 win over Brazil last month.
The victory climaxed a resurrection for the Americans, who last year were embarrassed by the Brazilians in the Women's World Cup semifinals, 4-0, their worst defeat in their history amid a major goalkeeping controversy. The loss and controversy cost coach Greg Ryan his job. Former Swedish international Pia Sundhage was brought in to heal the team and bring home the gold, which she did.
Forward Amy Rodriguez set up the winning goal. Breaking free of two Brazilians on her back, the Southern California player waited for a streaking Lloyd before sending her the ball. Lloyd broke in and sent a 19-yard bullet to the right of goalkeeper Barbara before a crowd of 51,612.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo, who was mired in that controversy, was magnificent in goal, catching or blocking everything sent her way.
The victory climaxed a tournament in which the U.S. wasn't given much of a chance to win defending their Olympic title, especially after losing its opener to Norway, 2-0. The Americans allowed two goals in the opening four minutes in that encounter and slowly picked up steam.
They rebounded to defeat Japan, 1-0, and New Zealand, 4-0, to win the first-round group and avoid world champion Germany and Brazil until the final. They outlasted archrival Canada in extratime in the quarterfinals, 2-1, and downed Japan in the semifinals Monday night, 4-2.
The U.S. had some tense moments Thursday, but held off the Brazilians to record their fourth 1-0 result against their South American foes this summer.
Behind Marta, the two-time FIFA player of the year, the Brazilians just about laid siege to the U.S. goal in the second extra period, firing shot after shot at the American goal. Either Solo was there to catch the ball or knock it away, the defense managed to block shots or Brazil could not find the target.
Lloyd, of Delran, N.J., almost sealed the match in the 117th minute, but her eight-yard shot hit the right post and bounded back into play.
The Brazilians had one last hurrah at the American goal. Marta sent a right-wing pass across the goalmouth that Angela Hucles managed to clear out of bounds in the 120th minute. Fourth official Christine Beck (Germany) signalled there would be one minute of extra time. Marta's last gasp header went wide.
Seconds later, referee Dagmar Damkova (Czech Republic) whistled twice and the Americans were champions again.
The Americans had major problems stringing together passes deep in the Brazilian third in a scoreless opening half as many of its passes wound up out of bounds well before the penalty area.
The Americans looked tentative and nervous, particularly in the early going, playing as though they were trying not to make a mistake. In a word, their passing was horrible. Their passes went to no one, nowhere, to a Brazilian, and on many occasions, out of bounds.
It appeared the only way the U.S. was going to find the back of the net was via a penalty kick or another set piece, an own goal or a Brazilian blunder its attack struggled so much.
In fact, it took 15 minutes before the Americans advanced close to the Brazilian box and that came off a long-range shot that was cleared by defender for a corner kick. However, nothing came of Angela Hucles' corner, which bounded off the crossbar and out of bounds.
On the other side of the field, the U.S. defense -- team and backline -- was solid as it bent, but never broke.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo made her first save in the ninth minute as defender Simone sent a ball to Daniela on the right side. Daniela's 22-yard attempt was gathered in by Solo.
Brazil had its closest opportunity in the 31st minute when Carli Lloyd coughed the ball up at midfield Daniela went on alone on Solo, who got dived for the ball just as the Brazilian arrived. Daniela hurled over the keeper, landing on her shoulder.
Thanks to some blanket coverage by central defender Christie Rampone, Marta had a relatively quiet first half hour. However, the living and breathing offensive machine almost produced something out of nothing in the 34th minute when she found herself one-on-two against Kate Markgraf and Rampone on the right side. She tried some moves and then literally split the defenders before sending a shot wide right.
Solo was at the top of her game in the first half, as she hailed down a Marta free kick from the right side in the 39th minute. Barely a minute later Marta danced through the U.S. defense on the left flank, getting free enough a couple of steps just before the goal line. She sent a pass across the goalmouth that Lori Chapulny managed to clear out of bounds.
Hucles had the U.S's first true shot at goal, but 18-yard attempt sailed way over the crossbar in the 41st minute.
Solo continued to catch everything sent her way. Marta's nifty moves past Mitts allowed her to penetrate close to the goal line before firing a hard cross that Solo dived to grab.
The Brazilians continued to attack down the left flank -- Mitts' side. Mitts fouled Daniela some 20 yards out on the left side. Daneila's ensuing free kick, however, was blocked by the American wall in the 64th minute.
Marta still did her dance as the game got old. In the 72nd minute, she forced Mitts to bump each other in the penalty area and bolted toward the goal before unleashing a six-yard shot that Solo somehow blocked with her right arm.
As regulation neared the 11th hour, the Americans actually made a last-ditch attempt to score. Amy Rodriguez was dumped on the penalty box line on the right side by defender Renata Costa and goalkeeper Barbara as the ball was cleared over the end line in the 85th minute. Nothing, however, came of Hucles' corner kick.
Standing outside of the box, Hucles got off a deflected shot that was snared by Barbara, who dived to her right to snare a minute later.
Brazil received a great opportunity in the 89th minute after Shannon Boxx pushed down Marta about 20 yards out on the left side. Formiga's free kicked was headed out of bounds by Cristiane.
The U.S. had one final push before Damkova called time. Rodriguez raced past Erika and fired a shot that Barbara produced a two-handed save in the 90th minute.
In the first extratime, Rodriguez found herself with the ball on the left side as second-half substitute Lauren Cheney moved into position on the right side in a two-on-two break toward the Brazilian net. However, Rodriguez shot directly to Barbara instead of perhaps waiting to see if Cheney could get into a better position in the 94th minute.