Originally posted on Fox Olympics  |  Last updated 8/9/12
The USA scored two goals and then hung on to finally oust Japan 2-1 and take home an unprecedented fourth gold medal in Olympic women's soccer. No team -- men's or women's -- has ever collected as many gold as this side and the win not only gave the USA revenge for a stinging defeat in the 2011 Women's World Cup but cemented their reputation as the greatest women's team ever. The heartbreak kids, who downed Canada in what many consider to be the greatest soccer game of the last 30 years just to get here, needed no last second-heroics this time around. Led by Carli Lloyd's goal in just the seventh minute, and then ended by her cannon of a shot in the 53rd minute, the Americans were able to out a strong wave of Japanese pressure to finally put 12 months of despair behind them. Last July, the Japanese downed the Americans on penalty kicks in a wrenching World Cup loss. Coming into the game, the USA was determined not to let that grim history repeat itself: they had practiced their spot-kicks, and beefed up their style of play. The the US normally a run-and-gun, athletics-first side, coach Pia Sundhage had strived to meld some of Japan's silk and passing to her four-hundred horsepower offense. Megan Rapinoe came to the fore, with her energy and passing leading the Yanks, and the "baby horse," Alex Morgan, was deployed as a harassing force up top. The plan worked, with the Americans overcoming a shaky defensive effort to hold off Japan's vaunted counterattack. Morgan was involved on the first goal, feeding Lloyd from the endline up to the rght flank where she nipped in front of her own teammate, Abby Wambach, to head the ball past a helpless Miho Fukumoto. Then, it was Rapinoe, laying off the ball 25 yards out from goal, who set up Lloyd's second, vital goal. It was her fourth goal of the games and, arguably, the most important in her seven years with the national team. But it was hardly a picnic: The Americans were forced to ride out a tough spell of pressure from the reigning world champs and a rough half hour that saw Japan climb right back into it. Hope Solo made two superb saves, slapping Yuki Ogimi onto the crossbar to deny a sure goal, then was forced to watch as the bar saved her on its own when Shinubo Ohno let fly from range. Ogimi would create panic for the Americans when a goal-mouth scramble at the hour mark allowed her to score and drag her team back into the game. Homare Sawa had fired the ball in only to see Christie Rampone clear the ball off the line, but the Americans could not clear it out of their own area, and Ogimi was able to punch the ball into an unguarded net. The Americans also got some help: Tobin Heath should have been called for a handball in the box in the first half but German ref Bibiana Steinhaus declined to give the call.
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