For their third Olympics in a row and fourth time overall, the United States Women's National Team stood at the center podium, and had gold be put around their necks. Even sweeter was the victory, which came at the expense of Japan, who stole the 2011 World Cup in a heartbreaking penalty shootout last summer. When the final whistle blew, there were tears and cheers, and the USWNT paraded around Wembley stadium, American flags draped over their shoulders, in front of 80,000 strong.
As usual, the USWNT came out of the gates guns blazing, with strong attacking play in Japan's penalty area. Of course, there was added incentive to get a goal early, and that's just what the USA did. In only the 8th minute, Alex Morgan crossed the ball onto what looked to be Abby Wambach's foot, only to see Carli Lloyd's head pop into the picture and bury the ball into the back of Japan's net. The USWNT got a little too comfortable after taking the lead, and Japan had multiple opportunities to score an equalizer. Had it not been for Hope Solo, this match could have gone into the half much differently.
The second half started much the same way the first did, with the USWNT pressing, searching for a second goal to put Japan away. It did not last long though. Fatigue began to set in and Japan started to look like a team that would get an equalizing goal. Instead, Carli Lloyd ran down the stretch of the field, took a shot from distance and picked up her second goal of the match in the 54th minute.
It was too little too late, but Japan would pick up a goal nine minutes later and despite a strong attack for the last 25 minutes of play, could not pick up an equalizer to take the match into extra time. Instead, the USWNT got the revenge they so desperately sought after and earned gold in the process. Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo share the MVP in this Final match. Lloyd obviously gets the nod for scoring the two goals in the match, but Hope Solo gets the MVP as well for keeping Japan from picking up 3 or 4 goals. With a little help from the cross bar, Solo was a force along with her defense all match long.
To go against the grain a little bit, the Brotherly Game is awarding Megan Rapinoe with the tournament MVP. While Abby Wambach is a natural leader, she seemed to take a step back, letting Rapinoe take some of the load, and she more than proved she could handle it. With three goals in the tournament and a strong presence in all six games, she definitely deserves to be MVP of the Olympic games.
With the gold won and their tour of England over, the USWNT have a little bit of a break and they deserve it. They won all six of their matches to earn that gold medal and playing a game every two days is never easy. Hopefully winning the Olympic tournament will help bring another women's pro team back to the US. It's a horrible shame the WPS had to fold. With a month to cherish the victory, the USWNT will next look to prepare for Costa Rica, who they will face on September 1st in Rochester, NY. That match will be at 2:30 p.m. and be televised on NBC. Thanks for following the Brotherly Game's Olympic coverage. It's been a pleasure!