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Posted at 09:57 AM ET, 08/18/2008

Women's Soccer: U.S. 4, Japan 2

Editor's Note 1: Dan live-blogged the U.S.-Japan women's soccer game. See below for the second half recap or click here for the first half.

Editor's Note 2: Dan also provided the audio for this slideshow about the U.S.-Japan game and its implications.

To recap, after a slow start, a 1-0 deficit and long moments of disjointed attacking, the Americans offered a stunning offensive spurt, scoring twice in the final five minutes to run into the locker room with a lead.

The veteran soccer scribes on the U.S. women's beat say this is by far the largest crowd they've seen at soccer this month; they're loving the fake fans and their evidently real enthusiasm. To again cast aspersions on judo, handball and the rest: it's nice coming to a sporting event where the fans obviously understand what's going on and are invested in the outcome. And, as I said, they're now completely invested on the U.S. side of things.

The American reserves came out of the locker room far earlier than the Japanese and are still showing the pep they had when they sprinted into the locker room. The Americans are now 45 minutes away from a chance to avenge their World Cup loss to Brazil, this time for a gold medal. Or more than one gold medal, I guess.

[And the halftime show included 10 Fuwa mascots, five plush and five inflatable, plus a full squad of cheerleaders who circled the entire stadium.]

Offer second half thoughts below, I'll provide updates here.

47th minute: And we're off, with Hucles sending a pretty through ball to Rodriguez who tested the Japanese keeper. She made the diving save, but the Americans seem to have retained their momentum. Lloyd breaks up a Japanese attack, and continues to impress in the midfield.

And the Chinese fans are literally booing every Japanese touch.

49th minute: Two more Japanese chances, one broken up by Markgraf, one a cross that sailed over everyone's heads. Lightning quick American response, with Tarpley firing wide.

52nd minute: Another Rodriguez chance. Elects to take a shot from a tough angle instead of waiting for help, and the keeper is there. Lots of open space for the Americans on these counters and there are still 35 minutes to play.

56th minute: Sorry again about the confusion. My bad. Anyhow, Japanese substitute Hara (13) for Ando (7). I confess I'm not super familiar with the Japanese women's roster, but the printout we have say it's a midfielder for a defender. Hara was the only player on the bench that's scored in this tournament. U.S. is keeping the pressure on.

61st minute: U.S. causing all kinds of trouble, with Rampone sending a dangerous cross into the heart of the defense and then Boxx nearly running onto a long feed.

63rd minute: Japanese give up ball to Mitts, who finds O'Reilly on the right, who sends a screaming shot to the near side that's nicely pushed away by the keeper. Foul on Lloyd off the corner. O'Reilly will cause more trouble tonight if they keep giving her that much space.

I can't remember the last time I was this hungry.

65th minute: Dangerous chance for Japanese, with Markgraf breaking it up. Off the ensuing corner Ohno gets a brief look, but can't put it on goal. All the Japanese people shown on our feed cringe. And the wave is going again.

68th minute: Natasha Kai comes in for Tarpley. Kai promptly waves her hands up in the air, asking the crowd for more noise. Nice to have one of those on your team. Kai, as usual, has two different colored shoes.

It's cooled off a little bit, and the humidity has definitely eased. U.S. seems peppier to me, and just had two more chances, although no shots.

70th minute: And another chance, and this one's a goal, with O'Reilly lofting in a clever try on her second touch from far on the right wing. Feed from Mitts, but that one's all O'Reilly. 3-1 U.S., 20 minutes to go.

74th minute: Japan substitutes two more, with Arakawa (9, and with an awesome fro) and Maruyama (12) entering.

76th minute: Attendance just announced at 50,937. Both Brazil and the U.S. fell behind 1-0 today before turning it on, with a combined seven unanswered goals (and counting). Fireworks in the final?

78th minute: O'Reilly and Kai playing games on the right side. With the Japanese keeper being beaten high on the past two goals, you'd think they might want to venture something from distance. And Solo with a comfortable save; the height comes in handy.

81st minute: Yeah. As I was saying. Hucles heads to the end line, goes high and near side, and the Japanese keeper has no chance. She's listed at 5-foot-5, a full four inches less than Solo, and it's cost her on three straight goals.

Japanese nearly answer on a header just wide from playmaker Sawa, but this one is over. And now there aren't going to be any stories about how the U.S. has struggled heading into the final. There's been some offensive magic here.

U.S. sub, Cheney for Rodriguez.

83rd minute: And Cheney immediately has a chance, also on the right side.

84th minute: Mitts cramping, repeatedly. Still have a sub, but nothing yet.

86th minute: Cheney got the memo, trying to go high. And here's the sub: Cox for the cramping Mitts. Since the disastrous opening minutes against Norway, the U.S. back line has allowed two goals in about 440 minutes, if I'm doing some quick math correctly.

Extra time: Lloyd stuffed on a breakaway. Fans whistling for the end. And then the U.S. defense misses several chances to clear up a mess in front of the net and 'fro lady Arakawa stuffs in the rebound. Solo had no chance.

The End: Whistle. Game over. Blame it on the Japanese goalie, or give credit to O'Reilly and Hucles and and Chalupny for three pretty snazzy goals, but either way, Sundhage gets some vindication for all her claims that the team would improve in every game. They're now heading into Thursday's final against Brazil off the best performance they've had since they got to China.

The celebration was pretty muted from the U.S., just a few group hugs.

By  |  09:57 AM ET, 08/18/2008

Categories:  Olympics

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