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: Jan 17, 2010
Posted on: July 17, 2011 9:30 pm

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

Well at least the US wins 1-0 in attractive women....thanks to Alex Gordon. Them Asian women are FUGLY!!!!!

Since: May 29, 2011
Posted on: July 17, 2011 9:30 pm

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

I think the bottom line here was destiny?

this is what you called choke! choke! choke!

how can you miss 3 consecutive pk in the world cup final, and 2 out of 3 is no where near the goal, it ridiculous and horrible to watch the last few minutes... but give all the credit to the japan team, they keep fighting back, eventhough they was down twice at 1-0 and come back to tie it the 71minnute and tie it again in the extra time at 115 to send it to the penalty kick.. how can you lose to a team that never won anything and never beat you in any of the last 20 match or more...

Since: Jun 8, 2011
Posted on: July 17, 2011 9:10 pm

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

I hate it for the US ladies, but it was one of the more entertaining soccer matches I have watched.  In fact, several of the US World Cup games would fall into that category.  That said, our defense close to the goal was atroshish.  We controlled the ball well, had numerous chances at the goal and defended well outside of the box.  I think the bottom line here was destiny.  Everything that could go wrong in crunch time did.  We are (as a team) more talented than Japan and better conditioned.  Sometimes in soccer, that stuff happens...perhaps for a reason.  It has been a tough year over there.

Since: Sep 4, 2006
Posted on: July 17, 2011 9:04 pm

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

It's only Soccer.    &nbs
p; Who cares?

Since: Jul 28, 2009
Posted on: July 17, 2011 9:03 pm

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

ESPN are drama queens, hype whores and spinsters.

Since: Dec 1, 2007
Posted on: July 17, 2011 9:01 pm

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

I am not a soccer fan generally, but our entire family watched all of the USA women's games.  That said, you cannot complain about falling short in the final game.  The USA did miss some shots due to nerves or just bad shots, but that is how it goes.  I choose to celebrate their success in making the final.

Since: Jul 28, 2009
Posted on: July 17, 2011 8:59 pm

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

usf and la,
i agree that maux is a jerk and clearly didnt watch the game.  but what is astonishing is that his post still scored a 126.  wonder if he is an adminstrator and can manipulate that sort of thing?

Since: Sep 25, 2007
Posted on: July 17, 2011 8:56 pm

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

 is an ass, obviously didn't watch the game, but tried to play catch up and commented off the highlights.  The US had 6-8 "finesse" chances on goal in the first half alone and could not finish.  Their fault, yes.  But to imply that our "goons" simply ran recklessly into the Japanese defense and tried to bowl everyone over for the expected win is laughable.  We outpa
yed the Japanese in time of possession and chances on goal.  I will say the Japanese got lucky, especially with the first goal.  Say it's sour grapes, but the best team on the pitch did not win.  Happens.  I was sorely disappointed, especially on the heels of the men falling apart in the Golden Cup.  I give credit where credit is due, though.  The Japanese did not fold, they did not panic and they made the most of their opportunities.  When the game went to PK's for the win (which I despise) the Japanese showed the continued composure that got them to the finals.  But, to describe the US Women as a bunch of Neanderthals is just silly.  The US played as the favorite, in a stadium that overwhelming supported the Japanese.  We will regroup and show the world in the Olympics that this was merely an unlucky result.  Go USA.     &

Since: Sep 7, 2006
Posted on: July 17, 2011 8:52 pm

How did the WC work out for the French?

Obviously that was written with Anti-American bias Maux.

You can't honesty sit there and spout off about this bs...the US literally outshot them 27-14...any rational human being a soccer fan or not can tell you that the entire game was dominated...Japan scored off 2 fluke deflections. The US hit the post 3 times..that's just the way soccer or hockey goes.  If they played 10 times the US would win 8.

Go back and use your Masters in Literature for chronologically breaking down one of the Napoleonic Wars and while you're at it you might as well utilize your favorite weapon----the white flag of retreat.

Since: Jun 20, 2011
Posted on: July 17, 2011 8:49 pm

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

ESPN already made the game-tying goal last week the #5 sports moment of all time
That was so stupid. People have a tendency to over-rate things that just happened recently. How many times have you heard people say, "OMG that was the greatest game ever." If ESPN does that list in a year, that game does not sniff the top 10.

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