Article by Leanne Elston
In thrilling fashion, the USWNT beat Canada 4-3 to advance to the gold medal final of the Olympics, where they will meet Japan, who defeated France 2-1 earlier in the day. The final will be a rematch of last year’s World Cup final, which saw Japan come away victors after topping the US through penalty kicks.
But nevermind that, for now. The match between the US and Canada was exciting right from the start, with the US coming out immediately to attack. Somewhat unexpectedly, however, Canada was the team that opened the scoring thanks to seasoned veteran Christine Sinclair, who would go on to put Canada ahead two more times during the match and complete a hat trick.
Sinclair’s performance was massive. She carried Canada on a tremendously important night, helping them rally to try to achieve what would have been quite the upset -- the US hasn’t lost to Canada in 11 years. And Canada, as a team, put on a show for everyone watching. The result for them is heartbreaking, but they can return home proud of what they accomplished, with heads held high.
For the USWNT, and for fans, this game echoed the quarterfinal against Brazil in the 2011 World Cup. The US won that one, too, but only after a trademark Abby Wambach header found the back of the net deep into stoppage time, sending the game to penalties. In this game, the US orchestrated three separate comebacks to finally win -- again in stoppage time, again with a header, only this one was from Alex Morgan.
Boy was it an exciting one. Here’s how it happened.
Pre-game -- Pia Sundhage has chosen the same starting 11 for this match that she chose against New Zealand, so nothing much to note there. This match is, of course, airing on the NBC Sports Network with Arlo White and Brandi Chastain commentating.
1st minute -- Well, we’ve already got a foul called and a free kick to the US. This match promises to be a physical one. Almost immediately after the free kick is taken, the US gets another one, which Carli Lloyd puts wide, as nobody latches onto it. And now play can perhaps get started for real. Let’s hope this one doesn’t turn ugly.
6th minute -- It’s all US so far. You might be thinking, “It’s only been six minutes, come on now,” but this match feels like it’s been happening for, well, a lot longer than six minutes. Quite the semifinal we’ve already got here.
13th minute -- Canada have found their way into the US half now but haven’t managed anything particularly dangerous yet. The US have asserted their early domination; now it’s just time to, you know, score some goals.
20th minute -- Hope Solo’s green kit is meant to help her camouflage, right? Hard to place your shot if you can’t see the keeper. She’s everywhere!
23rd minute -- GOAL. USA 0-1 Canada. Christine Sinclair is at the end of a good passing sequence that opens up the US defense, allowing Sinclair to round Rachel Buehler and take the shot. Hope Solo can’t do much about it (I guess the camo didn’t help). Some great beginning offensive play from the US is for naught as Canada exposes the defense. Time for that comeback, ladies...
27th minute -- Canada is gaining some confidence now. The US need to stay focused and not let themselves get backed into a corner. Even if Canada bunker down now that they’ve got their goal, the US has an offense perfectly capable of penetrating that defense.
31st minute -- Alex Morgan’s header off of a fantastic free kick from Megan Rapinoe is just wide. Boy, really thought that might’ve been the equalizer there, but nope. Canada still ahead.
36th minute -- There’s a lot of good wide play happening on the right side. LePeilbet and Rapinoe are working well together to advance the attack, getting Morgan involved and trying to service Wambach. There’s not as much coming from the left side of the pitch. I’d like to see Kelly O’Hara and Tobin Heath really get things going over there. Both wings need to be clicking if the US is gonna win this one.
37th minute -- Alex Morgan sends in a perfect cross that Abby Wambach gets a head on, but the header is driven low and bounces past the goal. Another close one there.
45th minute -- The Canadian goalkeeper kit looks like...not a soccer kit. It looks like a Chuck E. Cheese uniform or something. A carnival get-up that some poor high school kid is forced to wear for his minimum-wage summer job. Meanwhile, the outfield players look like they’re in pajamas. I will add, though, that the players make it work. This has been your obligatory kit commentary for the day.
Halftime -- USA 0-1 Canada. Sinclair’s goal midway through the first half is the deciding factor right now as the US can’t make the most of a lot of good offensive work at Canada’s end. There’s still work to be done here if the US want to meet Japan in the final. Canada will be feeling pretty good about their 1-0 lead and will not be looking to give it up.
50th minute -- Again, the US are executing most of the attacking play in this game but the rhythm isn’t there yet. Wambach’s volley just now has gone over the bar, but there are attempts on goal here.
54th minute -- GOAL. USA 1-1 Canada. That was something else. Rapinoe sends her corner kick to the near post and it somehow makes it into the goal. It’s not a Canada own goal -- that one is all Rapinoe (I’m sure she totally meant to do that). Rachel Buehler did well to draw defenders, who were scrambling. Game on now.
61st minute -- Can hear chants of “Let’s go, Canada, let’s go!” It’s nice that they’ve got such vocal support, but, you know, I still hope they lose.
68th minute -- GOAL. USA 1-2 Canada. Christine Sinclair does it again. Her header gets past Solo to put Canada back ahead in this game. The US are back to square one. Things are gonna get tense here, and inevitably even more physical.
70th minute -- GOAL. USA 2-2 Canada. Megan Rapinoe strikes a beautiful ball that sails into the box, hits the far post, and ricochets into the net. That was a laser of a shot. Fantastic.
73rd minute -- GOAL USA 2-3 Canada. Everyone keeping up all right? Christine Sinclair gets her hat trick with a header that LePeilbet, guarding the post, can’t reach. Yikes. Um. Your move, Rapinoe?
76th minute -- US substitution. Sydney Leroux comes in for Amy LePeilbet. Obviously, the US is trying to win this one.
79th minute -- A Canada handball in the box leads to a penalty for the US. Rapinoe had taken an indirect free kick in the box, which the referee gave because McLeod took too long releasing the ball from her possession (don’t see that called often...or ever...). Lauren Sesselmann with the handball. Wambach will take the penalty. This is a bit strange but I’m not complaining.
80th minute -- GOAL. USA 3-3 Canada. Wambach confidently converts the penalty and ties things up again. We are in for an intense final ten minutes here.
85th minute -- Thought for sure Wambach had the winner there but she directs Morgan’s cross just wide of the goal. Morgan did well to stay up when she could have gone down and looked for a penalty call. This is an incredible match. Both sides going all out right now to try and win this. We might be headed to extra time.
89th minute -- Hope Solo with a clutch save to keep Sophie Schmidt from scoring. I’m having minor heart attacks every few seconds, but for now this game is still tied.
90th minute -- Three minutes of stoppage time will be added. It’s possible I won’t be breathing during this time.
93rd minute -- The referee whistles for full time. This game will be going into extra time. I don’t know if I can handle 30 more minutes of this.
95th minute -- Pia Sundhage still has made only one substitution in this game (Leroux for LePeilbet). Gotta think the other two changes should be made soon. This tournament has pretty quick turnarounds -- the final against Japan is on Thursday, and Japan didn’t play an extra 30.
100th minute -- Wambach with a header on goal but McLeod has it; Leroux had a close chance earlier as well. The US is pressing and all three forwards are involved.
101st minute -- US substitution. Heather O’Reilly comes on for Lauren Cheney. Heath will move into the center of midfield.
106th minute -- That’s the first period of extra time done. Still locked at 3-3 with another 15 minutes to play. If it remains tied, we’ll go to penalties.
107th minute -- Rachel Buehler is down and Canada knocks the ball out of play. That really is great sportsmanship. Buehler is back up and will be all right.
110th minute -- Final US substitution. Becky Sauerbrunn comes in for Rachel Buehler.
112th minute -- Schmidt is down for Canada and looks to be in a fair bit of pain. She manages to walk off the pitch with help, and she is quickly back on. Two minutes later, Heather O’Reilly and Desiree Scott collide at midfield and Scott needs attention. She limps off the field but returns, although looks to be struggling.
119th minute -- Morgan lofts a cross in and Wambach’s header is tantalizingly close to being in. McLeod just got her fingers to it, and the crossbar helped a bit too.
120th minute -- Kelly O’Hara is down now after a challenge from Melissa Tancredi, who’s been racking up the fouls in this game. O’Hara is back up though.
123rd minute -- GOAL. USA 4-3 Canada. I can hardly believe it. Alex Morgan heads home the game winner in the dying seconds of this game. McLeod just can’t get her fingertips to it this time and the ball settles into the back of the net. Absolutely incredible. Could not have asked for a more dramatic way to go about things -- it’s heartbreak for Canada but utter elation for the US. We won’t be forgetting this one anytime soon.
The gold medal final will be Thursday, August 9th at 2:45 PM ET on the NBC Sports Network. You won’t want to miss it.