The players on the U.S. women's soccer team had never known a feeling quite like it. They came home as conquering heroes. Hope Solo and Abby Wambach kicked balls at taxicabs on Letterman. Celebrities, politicians and newfound fans sang their praises.
Even though they had lost.
''It was very strange for us to jump on that plane after the final, come to New York City, come to Times Square, and there's mobs of people cheering for us, letting us know how proud they were of us,'' veteran midfielder Heather O'Reilly said. ''It was a very, very, tough, difficult couple of days.''
This was last summer, after the Americans recaptured the national spotlight with a captivating run at the World Cup in Germany. All was going so well - come-from-behind wins, big plays from familiar faces and new ones, record TV ratings back in the States - until the shootout loss to the team from earthquake-devastated Japan in the championship game.
For once, at lea...