By Josh Kramer
It had been 389 days since Japan shocked the United States in penalty kicks at the World Cup. The bitter taste of the heartbreaking loss stayed with Wambach, Morgan, Solo, and the rest of the USA National Team up until the final whistle of yesterday’s outstanding gold medal match. On July 17, 2011 in Frankfurt, the United States women suffered the most painful defeat in team history. Redemption was on the mind of every Team USA player.
Last summer, I referred to Japan’s victory over the United States as the “Miracle on Grass.” Japan took down the top ranked team in the world and helped unite a country that was in need of hope after natural disaster had shattered the nation. Though it was a wonderful story for Japan at last summer’s World Cup, Team USA choked. It is as simple as that. Team USA was bigger, stronger, faster, and more athletic than the Japanese women. Oh yeah, they also outplayed Japan in every facet of the game. Yet they lost.
Yesterday though, the United States women redeemed themselves and most definitely did not choke. Fresh off of an epic victory against Canada in the semifinals, there was no lack of focus yesterday. Hope Solo was simply fantastic. Carli Lloyd confirmed the fact that she deserves to be a starter with two beautiful goals. And Team USA walked away with their fourth gold medal in women’s soccer (only been an Olympic sport since 1996). This game was about more than redemption though. It was about upholding the legacy of the greatest women’s soccer nation in the world.
A record crowd (for the Olympics) of 80,203 were given an absolute treat as two great teams put on a show. If it was possible, the stardom of Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, and Abby Wambach grew over the course of the past couple of weeks. In similar fashion to what happened 389 days earlier, the USA women took control from the opening kickoff and outplayed the Japanese from start to finish. Only this time, they finished the job to cap off a perfect Olympic run that included six consecutive victories.
Team USA truly lived up to the very famous Lance Armstrong quote, “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” The pain of defeat at the World Cup truly stung, but it only motivated the USA women to work harder as they looked to achieve their goal of gold in London. Many will likely refer to this team as soccer’s version of the “Redeem Team.” I am fine with that. But the USA women also lived up to their legacy. Having not won a World Cup since 1999, walking out of this Olympics without a gold medal would have been unacceptable with the very lofty expectations placed on United States women’s soccer.
The taste of redemption, the upholding of a legacy, and a three-peat is so sweet.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.