U.S. women in a thriller

Posted: August 07, 2012

MANCHESTER, England - The U.S. women's soccer team seems to want to make you suffer, to sit on the edge of your seat, to have your heart rate elevate to uncomfortable levels.

"I think we're just trying to gain more fans," said midfielder Carli Lloyd. "I think we're trying to give people back home heart attacks."

Three times the U.S. team fell behind to Canada in Monday night's semifinal game at Old Trafford. Three times the U.S. team rallied to tie the game.

And in the 123d minute - in the third minute of injury time in the extra time - Alex Morgan headed in the game winner.

"I don't remember ever feeling this way after scoring a goal," said Morgan, who got on the end of a cross from Heather O'Reilly. "I've never wanted to cry on the field after scoring a goal."

The Canadian players wanted to cry, too. They were angry and bitter at the way the game unfolded. Superstar Christine Sinclair scored all three of her team's goals, the final one in the 73d minute. But in the 80th minute the referee called a penalty on Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod for holding onto the ball too long, awarding an indirect free kick to the U.S. On that play, a Canadian player was called for a hand ball and the U.S. was awarded a penalty kick. Abby Wambach buried the kick to tie the game.

"We feel like we didn't lose," Sinclair said. "We feel like it was taken from us. It's a shame in a game like this that's so important the referee decided the result before it started."

The Canadian team has reason to feel defensive. Before Monday it hadn't beaten the U.S. team in 26 straight games. Make that 27, but this one hurt the most.

"There's something about playing the U.S.," said Sinclair, who is now tied with Wambach for second place on the all-time international goals list with 143. Mia Hamm is first with 158. "They're the best team in the world, so I know I have to be on top of my game."

The United States fell behind in the 22d minute when Sinclair slipped between two U.S. defenders to score. Megan Rapinoe curled a corner kick in to tie the game early in the second half. Sinclair scored again on a header in the 67th minute and - three minutes later - Rapinoe answered with another, a 17-yard blast that ricocheted in.

And then came the controversial calls that Canadian coach John Herdman called "two bizarre decisions."

But Canada was a long way from sealing a victory against a team whose resiliency has become its trademark. A year ago, in the World Cup in Germany, the U.S. rallied in the 122d minute of a quarterfinal against Brazil to take the game to penalty kicks. In the opening game of the Olympics, the Americans fell behind France, 2-0, before rallying for four goals.

And on Monday they took the game into the 123d minute again.

"I don't know why we want to make things so dramatic," Wambach said.

The drama is assured of continuing. Now the U.S. faces the rematch it has waited for an entire year: a gold medal game against Japan on Thursday at Wembley Stadium. Japan showed its own resiliency with a come-from-behind, victory against the Americans in the World Cup final in 2011.

"If we don't walk away with a gold medal, I won't be a happy camper," Lloyd said. "This is a rematch, this is redemption for us. We know how hard it was after that World Cup game."

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