Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Agony and Ecstasy

A small visual postscript to my last post on yesterday's soccer game. I can't even begin to imagine what it feels like to compete at their level. I never even played in championship games of any kind like my sis has. But over the years I did play in enough close games to totally understand either extreme of emotion you feel when the game is over and you find yourself on one side of the abyss, or the other.

Sophie Schmidt, Canada, Doug Mills/The New York Times

Abby Wambach, United States, Doug Mills/The New York Times

Observations from the Couch 8.7

When I turned on the women's match game between the U.S. and Canadian soccer teams I expected a good game but there wasn't much doubt in my mind that the American girls would win. What I didn't expect was a game won in the 123rd minute of what will go down as one of the great soccer matches ever played. You can use any word or cliche that comes to mind. Epic, classic, one for the history books, the ages, in this rare case none of them would be wrong. Alex scored the winning goal almost three minutes into injury time after 30 minutes of extra time while most, no all, of those watching were getting themselves ready for the first ever women's soccer penalty shootout in the Olympics. It was the latest goal ever scored in an Olympic soccer game, men or women. From beginning to end this game was simply that good.

What made the way the game played out all the more unlikely was, among other things, the history of these teams. Canada scored first and took the lead three times only to have the Americans answer each time. Also, the score was 1-0 Canada at the half and the U.S. hadn't won a game it trailed at the half in its last dozen tries. Since 2001 the U.S. has gone 22-0-4 against Canada so how is it that the two teams could play one of the greatest games ever? Totally amazing.

My brother, a bigger soccer fan than I, said the game was just meant to be. After all the game was played at Old Trafford Stadium, built in 1910 and home of the Manchester United since that same year. To put it in perspective for an American it would be like playing a women's baseball Olympic elimination game in Chicago's Wrigley Field.

The American win setup a rematch of last years Women's World Cup final against Japan which Japan won in a shootout. It would be the third straight Olympic gold medal for the U.S. team but after the game against Canada Thursday's gold medal game has a lot to live up to.

After the game U.S. Coach Pia Sundhage found Alex Morgan and told her to “remember one thing, promise yourself one thing:
remember this moment.”

How could anyone who saw that goal ever forget?
This is why I love sports.