Olympics, Day 1 pt. 3
Watching world-class soccer is something I do every time I get a chance. The tension that builds in the game is unbelievable, with entire national prides butting heads. The athleticism of the players is unmatched and the will to win is a staggering thing to see and feel played out in such a superb allegory for all human struggle. Add to these the facts that it’s a team game in which the cohesive, disciplined whole is much more important than having a superstar to lead with and that such superstars exist and add personal drama to the already atmospheric feelings of excitement, dedication, cumulative effort and perseverance that permeate the game and it seems clear to me that you have one of humankind’s outstanding pursuits in evidence. Suffice it to say that my friends don’t expect to both see me and not watch soccer during any World Cup.
The USA women’s team took a 0-2 loss to norway in early pool play last week (soccer must begin before the opening of the games due to the lengthy nature of the sport) and must defeat Japan in order to keep up with the expectations on them as probably the premier team in international women’s soccer. The good news for the U.S. is that they’ve never lost to Japan in 20 international appearances.
The U.S. side kicks off, putting the ball deep into Japan’s half and asserting their intention to be much more aggressive than in their disappointing showing against Norway.
The first corner kick that the U.S. women earn goes high after a volley for position.
A disorganized attack by Japan peters out.
A chance for the USA ollowing a technically well-handled backfield setup gets foiled by astute and creative Japanese goalkeeping.
A Japanesse attack gets broken up at midfield, and USA’s O’Reilly crosses into the goal box, but the chance is spoiled by a Japanese defender. The headed corner goes wide.
Lindsay Tarpley gets a shot as the USA keep the pressure on, but the goaltender is up to the task. The U.S. bait another corner. This time it’s played close to the net, but again goes wide.
A long ball from the Japanese passes the attacker, safely into the capable hands of Hope Solo, whose father, I would speculate, is an avid Star Wars fan.
Miyama takes a free kick for the Japanese and only a bad bounce keeps a chance from developing.
The Japanese have several significant attacking chances, some crosses in the box and a shot that narrowly misses the far post, but finally showing teeth behind clenched lips.
The return attack is foiled following a tense throw-in near the Japanese net.
Tarpley fires a corner to the far side, it’s tapped back to the near but the attacker comes a head’s width short of a certain goal.
At this point, it seems obvious that Japan is trying to wear down the U.S. side on defense, keeping the pace managed as the U.S. must chase it, knowing how badly they need the 3 points from this game.
A long like drive from the Japanese star Sawa gets tipped above the bar and the resulting corner is flaccid and easily broken up.
The return attack results in a long shot by Carli Lloyd which only just misses the far post.
After some crisp midfield play, Rodriguez earns a corner for the U.S., which is played slightly awkwardly, but dangerously. The ball spins away and nothing results, except for a goal kick.
Cox throws in on the corner, gets passed back to, drops it to a teammate and makes a run to the deep corner, where she is lead by an expertly timed pass from Tarpley. She receives and crosses through the box to Carli Lloyd, who fires a rising bullet into the top left corner and celebrates bouncily.
USA 1 – 0 JPN
The USA come out with renewed aggression, sharks smelling blood.
A ball in U.S. territory is aggressively defended and cleared.
Japan comes back with some defiance, but the rally peters out after some sloppy play causes a missed pass and a U.S. throw-in.
Amy Rodriguez burns the Japanese defense, but is called offside.
A very, very dangerous run for Japan ends with a weak pass or a weaker shot, but reaffirms the danger of their play.
Hucles gets in a weak shot for the U.S. and they recover the clear, but put it out of bounds on the attack.
The U.S. get another strong attack, with a curving cross just missing Carli Lloyd.
Amy Rodriguez earns another corner for the U.S. off of a long run and a deflection, but even though it sits on the ground in the box, it goes nowhere.
Following a weak shot by the Japanese, the return attack earns a Carli Lloyd corner, which is punched out by the Japanese keeper.
A long ball to Amy Rodriguez beats the defender cleanly, but she is impatient and mishits the ball directly into the hands of the Japanese keeper. On the return, a beautiful play by Mitts for the U.S. gives her a shot after her bump and run, and she almost gets a second shot as she stays with the ball even into the keeper’s hands.
Stoppage of 1 minute is announced, but three whistles go up while the ball is still at midfield.
The rest of the game is thrilling, as well. Forgive the omission, but a summary should suffice. Rodriguez continuously shows the value of her speed, beating the defense all half. Close calls are traded regularly, and play begins to get slightly sloppy around the 65th minute. Just before the second stoppage time and extending well into it, Japan gets a flurry of chances that fail to add up to a point, and the U.S. players look very relieved when the third whistle blows, winning the match 1-0 on the strength of Lloyd’s goal.
Click HERE to watch the full match on Nbcolympics.com