U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM DEFEATS CANADA 4-3 IN DRAMA-FILLED OVERTIME MATCH TO QUALIFY FOR GOLD MEDAL GAME AT 2012 OLYMPICS
Tuesday, 07 August 2012 18:24 | Written by Chris Carter
Alex Morgan Scores Game-Winner in 123rd Minute
MANCHESTER, England (Aug. 6, 2012) - Alex Morgan scored the game-winning goal in the 123rd minute of the Olympic semifinal match as the U.S. Women's National Team overcame three deficits during regulation to defeat Canada 4-3 in overtime in one of the most exciting and dramatic matches in Olympic history.
The USA advances to its fifth straight gold medal game where it will face Japan in a rematch of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final. Japan defeated France 2-1 in the other semifinal.
The gold medal match between the U.S. and Japan kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, Aug. 9, at Wembley Stadium in London. The match will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.
Midfielder Megan Rapinoe scored the first two goals for the USA and Abby Wambach scored her fifth goal in five Olympic matches to force overtime in what was the 500th international match in U.S. Women's National Team history.
In a rollicking match that saw Canada take the lead three times - all scored by star forward Christine Sinclair - the Americans battled back to tie each time and that set the stage for Morgan's dramatic game-winning goal. The USA out-shot Canada 27-7 for the match but Sinclair showed why she is one of the best goal scorers in women's soccer history.
Morgan had not scored since her two-goal performance in the USA's 4-2 victory against France in the Group G opener on July 25, but she had caused all kinds of problems for every U.S. opponent with her tremendous speed, fight and strength. She was due for a goal and it came at the most dramatic of times.
The speedy U.S. forward has shown a knack for scoring huge goals at opportune moments in her young career and this goal may have been the biggest. With just 30 seconds left in the third and final minute of stoppage time, Morgan rose over defender Chelsea Stewart to meet a cross from Heather O'Reilly and loop her header over Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod to seal an historic victory. O'Reilly had entered the game in 101st minute for Lauren Cheney and picked up her first assist of the 2012 Olympics.
Despite the USA's strong first 20 minutes and multiple set piece opportunities, Canada broke through for the game's first tally as Canada worked the ball from the left side through Marie-Eve Nault and then Melissa Tancredi's nice touch found Sinclair running into the middle. Sinclair quickly dribbled to her right to get around Kelley O'Hara and fired into the lower left corner for the early lead in the 22nd minute.
It took the USA until the 55th minute to tie the game and it came on the USA's fifth corner kick of the match. Taking the corner kick from the left side, Rapinoe curled her right-footed in-swinger just inside the near post for an unassisted goal. Canada had several players in the vicinity, but the ball snuck through several defenders and the goalkeeper.
The match then saw three goals in a six-minute span starting in the 67th when Tancredi's cross from the left wing found the head of Sinclair, who made a great run before powering her header into the lower left corner for the 2-1 lead.
Rapinoe brought the USA level again in the 70th minute on a world class strike from distance. O'Hara crossed all the way from the left side of the field over to Rapinoe just above the right side of the penalty box. She took a settling touch in front of Canada defender Nault and then unleashed a thrilling long-distance strike that deflected off the left post and ricocheted into the right netting.
Three minutes later, however, Canada scored off a set piece chance. Midfielder Kaylyn Kyle took the corner kick from the left and Sinclair completed her hat trick with another header, rising over her mark to place the ball inside the left over leaping U.S. defender Amy LePeilbet. The strike gave Sinclair 143 career goals and briefly moved her past Wambach for second on the all-time women's goal-scoring list behind only Mia Hamm (158 career goals).
Like everything else during Monday's game, things changed on a dime as Wambach would tie Sinclair with her 143rd career international goal by burying a penalty kick in the 80th minute.
Referee Christina Pedersen had warned McLeod for time wasting earlier in the match and finally penalized her with a whistle for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the USA an indirect free-kick a couple yards inside the penalty area. Tobin Heath tapped the free kick to the right and Carli Lloyd took a right-footed shot that hit Nault's arm. Pederson did not hesitate to point to the spot.
Wambach calmly placed the penalty kick to the left side of the net past the diving McLeod.
The USA had a great chance to gain the lead in regulation when Morgan eluded her defender and forced McLeod to commit toward her at the near post in the 85th minute. Morgan crossed the ball toward the right side of the box where Wambach was crashing, but she pushed her sliding shot wide right of the net.
The match then went into two 15-minute overtime periods and both sides had chances. In the 100th minute, Wambach had a snap header that she directed toward the near right post but McLeod pounced on the shot.
In the 102nd minute, Canada earned a dangerous free kick just a few feet outside the right side of the penalty area, but Diana Matheson's service went over everyone and wide left of the goal. In the 104th minute, Matheson made a strong run down the right side and saw Sinclair in the middle of the box, but Rachel Buehler broke up the attack for a corner kick.
In the second overtime, O'Reilly darted into the box and was just a shade out of reach on Morgan's cross from the left that got past McLeod in the 117th minute. Two minutes later, Morgan set up Wambach for a looping header that hit the crossbar.
With the match looking destined for penalty kicks, Morgan had her moment of brilliance and the USA team now prepares for Japan in the gold medal game. The two sides battled in the championship of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, where the U.S. had two different leads but Japan eventually triumphed in the penalty kick shootout.
Alex Morgan scored the 30th goal of her young career, moving into a third-place tie with Brandi Chastain for 15th place in career U.S. WNT tallies.
Morgan has a team-high 20 goals this year, moving into a tie for fourth place on the all-time list for goals during a calendar year with Mia Hamm (1998), Kristine Lilly (1999) and Abby Wambach (2007), who all had 20 goals in their respective campaigns.
The USA improved to 93-2-5 all-time when Wambach scores a goal.
In games where Morgan and Wambach have both contributed at least one goal, the team is now 9-0-0 this year.
The U.S. improved to 389-57-54 all-time in its 500th international match on Monday.
Defender Christie Rampone played in her 21st career Olympic match.
The USA has won gold in three out of the four Olympic women's soccer tournaments that have been contested previously while also taking a silver medal in 2000.
Becky Sauerbrunn entered the game in the 110th minute - seeing action in her second game of the tournament - and played an excellent 10 minutes to help the USA to victory.