“I need to wrap my head around what just happened,” Solo said.
What just happened, in the simplest terms, is that Morgan got her head on O’Reilly’s cross and knocked it past Canadian goalie Erin McLeod in the third minute of injury time at the end of 30 minutes of extra time — essentially with about 20 seconds left in a game that had lasted nearly 130 enthralling, exhausting minutes. The goal gave the Americans, who trailed three times, a 4-3 victory over Canada, and set up the rematch with Japan that the United States has yearned for since last summer, when it fell to the Japanese in the Women’s World Cup.
“Moments like this are what make sports so cool,” U.S. star Abby Wambach said.
But in between the jubilation and despair there was also controversy that complicated matters. The Canadians flat-out believe they were robbed — particularly on the game-tying goal, but throughout a rough-and-tumble game as well. They will wake up Tuesday morning believing the three goals delivered by brilliant forward Christine Sinclair should have been enough to stake their own place on Thursday at London’s Wembley Stadium, where the gold medal game will be contested.
“Just devastated,” Sinclair said. “We feel like we didn’t lose. We feel like it was taken from us. It’s a shame that in a game like that, that’s so important, the ref decided the result before it started.”
Sinclair put Canada up 1-0 at the half, and even at this legendary home to Manchester United, a normal soccer match seemed to be playing out before a crowd of 26,630 that at times sounded much larger. American Megan Rapinoe scored to tie things up on a corner kick, then Sinclair countered, then Rapinoe again, a rocket that clanked off the post and in. When Sinclair headed one more past Solo in the 73rd minute, a mad flurry of four goals in 19 minutes was over. With Canada up 3-2, there was more than a little spice.
There was also some discussion from the Americans about their propensity for providing drama, even if it makes no one in the stands very comfortable.
“I think we’re just trying to gain more fans,” midfielder Carli Lloyd said. “I think we’re trying to give people back home heart attacks.”
There were sources of calm. Wambach, 32, remained serene in so many unsettled moments, in large part because of the women with whom she plays.