Blog Entry

Unthinkable: U.S. women out-closed, out-finished

Posted on: July 17, 2011 6:47 pm

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

There were a lot of scripts for today's Women's World Cup final that ended in defeat for the U.S.A. against Japan. The one it followed had to have been the most far-fetched of all.

Because if there was one thing the U.S. knew they could rely on, one strength they could always fall back to, it was their ability to finish. No team was fitter. No team was more resilient. No team dealt better with pressure. Down a goal and a player in the 122nd minute to Brazil? No problem. Tied 1-1 with France with 15 minutes to play after an hour of French domination? We'll win by two. 

So when the U.S. went up 1-0 thanks a brilliant Alex Morgan strike and took that lead into the 80th minute, you could have forgiven the watching nation for believing the Cup was within reach. But the crushing defensive lapses that had hamstrung the U.S. in group play reared its head again, two failed clearances from Rachel Buehler and Alex Krieger leaving Aya Miyama to stab home from close range. Cup: back out of reach.

OK, so it's extra time, but they're the U.S. No problem, right? It looked that way when the terrific Morgan turned her defender and lofted a pinpoint cross that Abby Wambach headed home with maximum authority. 2-1 up and with the clock ticking under five minutes to play, the Cup was within the U.S.'s reach. Again.

But with the American defense suddenly -- and surprisingly -- looking dead-legged, Japan mounted a last-minute surge and forced a corner. That corner fell to Homare Sawa, Japan's best player and the tournament's high scorer. 2-2. Cup gone. Again.

But they'd done it at the absolute death of overtime once already, right? And sure enough, with just seconds remaining, Heather O'Reilly somehow broke free on the right flank to cross to an unmarked Wambach just six yards from goal. Wambach, the U.S.'s certain closer, the U.S.'s cold-blooded assassin, their finisher of finishers. But the ball fall fell to her feet, rather than her head; the one-time shot skewed wildly over the bar.

But with Hope Solo in goal and the kind of precision on display in their 5-for-5 ouster of Brazil, surely a penalty kick shootout would belong to the U.S. Right? Please? 

No. The U.S.'s first three penalty takers (Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, and Tobin Heath) went a stunning 0-for-3. It was over. 

It was unthinkable. A loss? Not a shock. But like this? As not just the second-best team, but the second-most resilient team, the second-most clutch team?

It's the sort of defeat that -- like the U.S. men's loss to Ghana in the wake of Landon Donovan's heart-stopping goal against Algeria last year -- cannot help but take some of the shine off of the Brazil comeback that first seized the country's sporting attention the Sunday before. As amazing a moment as that remains, quarterfinals aren't finals. Goals scored in the 122nd minute don't count more than ones given up in the 117th. Losses from ahead are every bit as devastating as wins from behind. That's sports.

That's not to say the U.S.'s one shootout loss should overshadow what came before it. The USWNT took advantage of this tournament to re-establish themselves as one of the world's elite sides. They reminded the nation of the drama and power of the sport they play, just a year before they look to defend their Olympic title. They lost to a deserving champion, one who punished opponents' mistakes mercilessly throughout the tournament and did so again today. The U.S. should remain immensely proud of their accomplishments, and the nation should remain immensely appreciative of the giddy ride we've been taken on.

But assessing the Americans' entire tournament means also assessing the Final's last 10 minutes of regulation, that final 5 minutes of extra time, that dreadful shootout. And as brilliant as the U.S. was in Germany, there's no way that assessment can't conclude that the U.S. chose the worst possible time to close in the worst possible fashion.

It's not the script we expected. And after 12 long years, the U.S. must now wait four long more for their World Cup rewrite.


Since: Dec 18, 2006
Posted on: July 19, 2011 1:40 pm

Unthinkable: U.S. women out-closed, out-finished

I'm glad the WWC is over just because I don't have to read some of these idiotic comments from soccer haters anymore. To all you haters, ok, we get it, you don't like soccer, it sucks, and bla bla bla bla. Ok, we get it, some of us soccer fans in the US and almost the entire world poppulations love the sports except for some Americans who thinks it sucks, alright, soccer is boring, we hear you, hope you're happy that it's over for now but 3 years from now, the men's WC will be on again and you guys can crawl back from which ever holes or caves you've been hiding from and start your hateful comments all over again and 4 years from now, the women's WC will start and once again, you haters can do it all over again. The sports of soccer is not going anywhere whether you like it or not, and us soccer fans will be here too and so are you haters so no matter how much you think the game sucked, who cares, all I know is it's not going away whether it's poppular here in the US or not, doesn't matter, soccer will always be played.

As for the USA team losing to Japan, we did exactly what the Brazilian team did to us, underestimating the opponents. The Brazilian was the favorate team so the minute they were up and with time ticking down, they think they've already won and therefore already celebrating the victory in their minds and not taking care of bussiness. The American women did the same thing. When Wambach scored in extra time, we thought the game was over because we're suppose to beat the Japanese, now we're up 2-1, less than 5 minutes to play, the momentum was on our side, the players started to celebrate already, in their minds, even the coaches was acting like we already won the cup, the entire team was acting like we got this, we've won and than the unthinkable happen, just like when we scored againts Brazil. When it's time for the penalty kicks, the Brazilians just assume they're going to get the better of us because they are after all the favorates to win the game and the World Cup. Well, the same fate and mentality was also in our women's side. We felt that since we're the favorates, we scored on all of our 5 penalty kicks againts the mighty Brazilians, this is going to be a walk in the park, the victory is ours. Guess we were wrong.     

Since: Sep 2, 2010
Posted on: July 18, 2011 3:53 pm

Unthinkable: U.S. women out-closed, out-finished

Rapinoe should not have been taken out. She was the best player on the field and should have been there for the PKs. Also, Wambach should have been one of the first two penalty takers....but that's just me.   Congrats Japan!

Since: Dec 20, 2008
Posted on: July 18, 2011 12:18 pm

Of ALL teams, US should know it's 90 (120) minute

After the first 30 minutes of the US attacking, it almost felt that the blown chances would ultimately haunt them . . 3 post shots, sloppy defense when needed and what may be considered a bit of poor coaching.
   Why did Rapinoe start . . and then come out with 6 min. left?  She was always a spark in the second half during the entire tournament . . why change a good thing Pia?  Why not use the remaining substitution to bring in fresh legs . . Rodriguez or a fresh defender?  Then Boxx with the first penalty kick . . completely predictable . . she put it in the exact spot where she had the 2 attempts against Brazil.  Anybody watching would have guess that, put the Japan coach mapped it out!
   Many "Monday Morning Soccer Judges" are wondering how the talents weren't there for the entire 120 minutes.  Tough one to lose . . but Japan must be congratulated!  Unlike their opponents, they played full tilt . . their legs falling off at the end . . and still able to make the penalty kicks.

Since: Sep 28, 2008
Posted on: July 18, 2011 11:44 am

Unthinkable: U.S. women out-closed, out-finished

It was clearly a choke job.  The defense clearly colapsed 2 times.  Not being able to clear a ball and not marking Japan's best player on a corner kick.  The US women got what they deserved here.  They think it was ok to be the better team 95% of the time.  Well they clearly were.  But Japan didnt choke on the PK's either.

Since: Jan 11, 2007
Posted on: July 18, 2011 11:40 am

Unthinkable: U.S. women out-closed, out-finished

richy, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone on this board is now dumber for having read to it.

Either you're just a troll, or truly do not have any grasp of soccer.  Regardless, it's one of the worst pieces of analysis in the history of this site.  And that is really saying something.

Since: Dec 25, 2006
Posted on: July 18, 2011 11:26 am

Unthinkable: U.S. women out-closed, out-finished


Since: Dec 25, 2006
Posted on: July 18, 2011 11:24 am

Unthinkable: U.S. women out-closed, out-finished

hey thanks for your time in iraq but even the usa girls were in on it the tounament was fixed japan never won it was fixed notice the mood when the teams came out together the game was already determined and when it was over notice no tears because the team already knew they werent taking home the trophy the game was fixed shame on fiba need to get fiba out they cant even ref a game corectly time to get rid of fiba

Since: Dec 25, 2006
Posted on: July 18, 2011 11:18 am

Unthinkable: U.S. women out-closed, out-finished

still what makes u think she is any good she is way over raited said before the game started but still the game was fixed so japan would have something to smile about after such a disaster in there country fiba fixed the tounament

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: July 18, 2011 11:17 am

Unthinkable: U.S. women out-closed, out-finished

The current format of 30 minutes of extra time does not provide urgency incentive to score.  It just continues the same regular time.  Dumb.

Golden goal.  Nuff said.
Nope. They eliminated golden goal a decade ago because that format eliminated incentive to score. You bring back golden goal, you will see a lot more penalty shootouts.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: July 18, 2011 11:13 am

Unthinkable: U.S. women out-closed, out-finished

Hopefully this will stop people from trying to make soccer a mainstream sport.
You're a decade too late. It's already a mainstream sport.

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