Since I can’t come up with anything terribly profound to say after Monday’s women’s Olympic soccer epic between the U.S. and Canada, I’ll link here this morning to those who were there and had the daunting duty of putting together words to describe it.
After last year’s comeback victory by the Americans over Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals, I thought it would be hard to top such a feat. And so it happened at Old Trafford.
As I wrote after that match a year ago, and the World Cup, the Americans’ entertainment factor transcended the fact that they’re female athletes playing soccer. This was pure sporting spectacle, and Thursday’s gold medal match against Japan at Wembley Stadium ought to be another magnificent treat.
The U.S. women’s soccer team has a way of doing this to you: Making you think it’s over, that there’s no way these women could possibly find a way to rescue victory from defeat. It happened last year in the World Cup against Brazil, when they galvanized a nation by somehow scoring with a man down on a Hail Mary in extra time. And it happened again here at Old Trafford on Monday. All the U.S. did was come from behind three times in the second half, erasing an epic hat-trick performance by Canada’s Christine Sinclair.
“It’s a shame that in such an important and even game that the ref had such an impact on it,” said Sinclair. “We feel cheated. It’s a shame that in a game as important as that, the ref decided the result before it started.”
Wambach brushed off complaints about the ref as a loser’s lament and said it was in line with the relentless talking Canadian coach John Herdman did in the build-up to the game about how the Americans use “illegal tactics” such as setting picks on set plays.
Canada should remember this. The Olympics are stuffed with sports we care nothing about, and with athletes we only know every four years, but they’re packed with something else, too. They matter so much to the people competing that they get to us. And so when Simon Whitfield runs to gold in Sydney, we remember. When Joannie Rochette skates her heart out for bronze, we remember. We should remember this.
If they gave out awards for Olympic drama queens, the U.S. women’s soccer team would get a gold medal.
We celebrate victories, but we also celebrate classics. If all those great Canadian triumphs we like to talk about — from ’72 onward — were celebrations, this team’s 4-3 loss at the Olympics was Lear on grass. It was Macbeth. It was a great tragedy. Emphasis on “great.”