Posted on August 7, 2012
By Michael Lewis
MANCHESTER — Before the United States women took the Old Trafford pitch for extra time in its epic 4-3 win over Canada in the Olympic semifinals on Monday, striker Abby Wambach reminded her teammates:
“I know I’ve said this before,” she said. “But it really does just take one moment and one chance, one moment of brilliance for somebody to do something individually spectacular.”
Alex Morgan got the message. The striker delivered big time just as time was running out in extratime and heading toward the dreaded penalty kicks. Second-half substitute Heather O’Reilly sent a cross from the right flank into the penalty area and Morgan headed the ball home, a looping shot over goalkeeper Erin McLeod.
It wasn’t the hardest header, but it certainly did the trick.
Heading is something Pia [Sundhage, coach] has always said is one of my weakest points, which is probably a true statement,” Morgan said.
Weakest points? Tell that to the Canadians, who are coming to the bronze-medal match against France in Coventry on Thursday because of Morgan’s header.
The Americans, on the other hand, are headed for a gold-medal confrontation with Women’s World Cup champion Japan at Wembley in London on Thursday.
“I’m still in shock,” Morgan admitted afterwards. “We’re in the final. I don’t care who scores as long as we score and we win, that’s all that matters. I just got my head on it at the end. I didn’t even see it go in.”
But more importantly, the rest of the crowd of some 29,000 at Old Trafford and referee Christiana Pedersen did.
“I remember being in shock wanting to laugh and cry at the same time and just being so proud of the team for coming back so many times and sticking in it and coming out on top at the end,” Morgan said. “I’ve never wanted to cry on a field after scoring a goal. It was the best feeling ever.”
Morgan scored three minutes into stoppage time, some 30 seconds before Pedersen whistled the game history.
After striking twice in the opener, a 4-2 U.S. win over France, Morgan had not scored in the past three matches. Considering her speed, prolific scoring rate before the Olympics and expectations, that might be considered a long scoring slump.
Wambach, who has scored in all five U.S. games, was ecstatic.
“I think I told her that I was in love with her in the dog pile that we had,” the veteran striker said. “I’m just so proud of her. What a great goal by a young kid who has big expectations for herself. She hasn’t scored a goal in the last couple games and I told you she’d score a goal that would make everybody kind of shut up and I think she did tonight.”
And then some.
“Don’t you guys love it? Doesn’t it make you on the edge of your seat?” Morgan said. “This is what we live for. Abby says we put ourselves in this predicament and we’ll get out of it.”
Categories: Canada, North America, Olympic Qualifying, U.S.A., Women
Tags: 2012 London Olympics, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Women's World Cup