August 6, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
A true classic
In the short history of women's soccer at the world level, there have been a handful of epic games and epic performances. Mondayís Olympic semifinal match between the United States and Canada was one of the best.
This was a toe-to-toe, donít give an inch heavyweight fight. Not the watered-down late-night pay-per-view variety we get now in boxing's modern era, but the Ali-Frazier, Louis-Schmelling variety. One for the ages. A true slugfest. Both sides throwing heavy body punches and stinging jabs until the final bell.
It might have been the best women's soccer game ever played, and certainly leaves you wondering if Thursday's final will match it or be anticlimactic.
This game had its share of storylines.
Alex Morgan scoring in the final minute of extratime to give the United States a 4-3 win over their neighbors to the north, Canada, a team they traditionally hold a huge advantage over, one that has not beaten them in nearly a decade.
Make no mistake, this would probably have been a mismatch but for one woman, Christine Sinclair. She scored all three of Canada's goals. In the 500 games the United States Women's National Team has played, it was only the second time an opponent scored three goals against them.
Abby Wambach perhaps said it best in a postgame interview with NBC Sports: "she [Sinclair] literally put her team on her back."
That's exactly what she did. That's what Wambach has done in the past, that's what Michelle Akers used to do in the early days of the Women's National Team.
Canada got as far as it did because of Sinclair. Look at last year's World Cup, when they lost all three games in the group round. Sinclair was injured in the first game, and while she played on with a faceguard, she was not the dominant force on which they had relied. Her three goals on Monday moved her ahead of Wambach in the race to catch all-time womenís soccer scoring leader Mia Hamm, who retired with 158, 15 ahead of Sinclairís 143.
The U.S. got a bit of help from the referee on Monday, but to their credit they made the most of it. Every Olympics has those moments that sports fans remember for the ages. This game, Sinclair's performance, Morgan's goal, the U.S.'s win. It has to rank right up there.
Certainly Canada has to be disappointed by not winning and advancing to the final. But they left it all on the field for 120 minutes and put on a performance for the ages.
Isn't that what the Olympic Games are supposed to be about?