Redemption: U.S. women grab gold in soccer

2012-08-10T00:00:00Z 2012-09-15T20:07:54Z Redemption: U.S. women grab gold in soccerBY VAHE GREGORIAN • vgregorian@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8199 stltoday.com

LONDON • On Monday in a London Olympics women’s soccer semifinal, U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd absorbed a head stomp by Canada’s Melissa Tancredi, who apparently needs to resume her intermittent studies at Logan College of Chiropractic to refine her therapeutic touch.

"I definitely had a lot of bumps from those studs going in my head," Lloyd said Thursday night.

But that wasn’t the most jarring blow she’d suffered in the last few months.

Being benched from her role as a long-time starter for the U.S. national team was.

"I wasn’t happy about that," she said.

Accordingly, U.S. star Abby Wambach said, "She has every opportunity to pout, to turn her negativity into some sort of drama."

Instead, she saved the drama for the crucible of the gold medal game for the second straight Olympics.

Against Japan Thursday at Wembley Stadium before 80,023 spectators, the biggest crowd ever at an Olympic women’s soccer game, Lloyd scored both goals with distinct flourishes in a 2-1 victory also marked by several spectacular saves by goaltender Hope Solo.

"I had two goals at Wembley," said Lloyd, who also scored the winning goal against Brazil in the Olympic final four years ago. "I guess I can tell my kids that later on in life."

As for now, she can say "told you so" to coach Pia Sundhage.

"You can’t say enough about Carli Lloyd, being on the bench to start the Games and then coming (in) and making such a difference," Sundhage said. "I guess she proved me wrong, and I’m really happy she’s more clever than I am."

Lloyd came off the bench for an injured Shannon Boxx in the first game of the Olympics against France and was entrenched again after scoring the game-winning goal in the U.S. rally from a 2-0 deficit for a 4-2 win.

"I wanted to prove everybody wrong," she said, and show "that I’m a special player."

By the eighth minute Thursday, she had demonstrated it again on an uncanny pass from Alex Morgan, who pivoted from the left of the goal and sent a blind lob that Lloyd and Wambach both closed on.

From all initial appearances, in fact, it was Wambach who scored. But as Wambach kicked, Lloyd headed it in.

"I take Carli Lloyd’s head any day over my foot, because so much can happen with a volley. If you’ve got a head and you’ve got a bead on it, you take that head," said Wambach, adding, "I think I basically kicked her in the face."

Lloyd made it 2-0 in the 54th minute with a rocket between two nearby defenders from just outside the penalty box.

"The second one was just kind of doing what I do best, dribbling and taking players on ... and unleashing a shot from distance," she said.

But Japan, which beat the U.S. team in last year’s World Cup, answered in the 63rd minute on a goal by Yuki Ogimi.

And the game might have been tied if not for a rash of poor fortune for Japan: two shots off the crossbar, two balls cleared off the goal-line by U.S. defenders and an uncalled handball on Tobin Heath that would have set up a penalty kick.

"I wondered about the judgment, but I have to pay respect to the referee, anyway," Japan coach Norio Sasaki said.

And then there was the work of Solo, including two remarkable, sprawling saves.

"She played fantastic today," Wambach said, adding that without her, "Who knows what happens? We could still be out there right now."

The same could be said for Lloyd. Again.

"It’s no surprise to us that she can step up in these big games," Wambach said. "She definitely has the ability to change games."

As long as she’s in the lineup.

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