Best game ever? Alex Morgan heads US soccer to stunning win over Canada (+video)
The US women's soccer team beat Canada, 4-3, in the last minute of overtime in the Olympic semifinal, setting up a highly anticipated rematch with Japan. The game was one to remember.
It must be asked: Was that just the best women's soccer game ever?Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Week Two of the Olympics
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Well after the game was over, neither team had left the field at Old Trafford in Manchester – the United States because it never wanted the feeling to end, Canada because utter disbelief does not know what to do next.
Before the Olympic women's soccer tournament began, the anticipation built around a potential dream final: the US vs. Japan, arguably the two best teams in the world, in a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final. Now, that final is a reality, but it must be a comedown after this semifinal.
Three times, Canada scored, and three times the Americans responded. Canada's hat trick was all precision and skill. The American goals were more unusual: a goal directly from a corner kick, a goal that threatened to break the post in half, and some help from a referee changing the course of the match with a call that is almost never made.
Then, at the end of it, in the third minute of time added on to extra time – in other words, the 123rd minute – there was American forward Alex Morgan, her head obscured in a forest of white-shirted defenders, somehow finding the ball first for a headed goal and the most improbable of wins imaginable, 4-3.
In those 123 minutes, the Americans led for 30 seconds. They just happened to be the last 30 seconds.
It was a win that confirmed that, for the time being, the size of the American heart is still enough to beat the best women's teams in the world. But it was a loss that showed that Canada knew the weaknesses of the American team, exploited them, and by some measures played the better game.
Before Monday, the US women were 43-3-5 against the Canadians. But let's just call it 1-0, because for these cross-border rivals, something beautiful was born at Old Trafford: a new beginning.
Canada might not quite be on level terms yet – the Americans ran the match virtually from start to finish. But there is no question that the Americans had no answer for Christine Sinclair. And that is thanks to a stroke of brilliance from the Canadian coach.
Sinclair, the No. 3 all-time scorer in women's soccer history, had always been a forward, and logically so. But there, she always went head-to-head with a team's best defenders – and sometimes two of them. By slotting Sinclair into the Canadian midfield during the Olympics, coach John Herdman made a tactical masterstroke: Does an opposing team move a defenseman out to get her, leaving space behind her for the Canadian forwards to attack, or does a less defensively adept midfielder drop back to pick her up?
In the Americans' case, the answer was: neither. With the American midfield famous for wanting to push forward on offense, Sinclair repeatedly found spaces in which to operate, most notably on the first goal, when a brilliantly executed Canadian counterattack cut the American defense to shreds.