The Japan Women’s National Team will be kicking themselves tomorrow, if they aren’t already doing so back in their hotel rooms. With several great chances, they really should’ve handed the US Women an embarrassing and humbling whooping on the Olympic stage in the gold medal match earlier today at Wembley. But alas, it was not their day, and the USWNT rode two goals (well, one and a half goals, really) from Carli Lloyd to stave off the ever-pressing Japanese onslaught (although the etymology of the word I just used to describe it belies its beauty, tactical brilliance, and finesse; in other words, the Japanese played some pretty football).
Hope Solo was busy all game, and definitely earned some bragging rights after keeping Japan’s curling shots from just outside the eighteen at bay (she finished the match with 12 saves). The US, for its part, surely had its chances as well, with Alex Morgan making sharp runs to the baseline and Abby Wambach “lurking” (as the commentators kept saying) near the far post. The towering Wambach seemed a constant threat, especially on corner kicks.
Still, this match could’ve easily ended up with nine goals between the sides, and the US should sigh with relief to leave Wembley with a 2-1 win and their third straight gold medal. The victory is of course made that much sweeter by the fact that Japan ended the US Women’s World Cup dream just over a year ago, in heartbreaking fashion via penalty shootout.
I would write that this high-drama match will finally boost interest about soccer in the United States, except that soccer is already the most popular sport among the 12-24-year-old demographic according to some polls, and a total of 18 million Americans reportedly play the sport formally, with women making up 40 percent of this number. Most studies indicate that between seven and eight million women played organized soccer in the US in 2011, making it the most played sport by American female athletes.
According to reports from Wembley, 80,203 people packed London’s historic stadium to watch today’s match. It was reported to be the biggest crowd at a woman’s soccer match in Olympic history.
At what point do we stop saying that a sport is “rising”?