“I have never known this to happen in a game before,” she said. “Referees never make this kind of decision.”
The United States hardly debated that. American veteran Christie Rampone is 37 and has played on the national team for 15 years. When has she seen that call?
“Never,” she said.
Rapinoe took the free kick, and she drilled it directly into Canada’s wall of defense. It hit Canadian defender Marie-Eve Nault, ostensibly in the hand or forearm. Pedersen blew her whistle again: hand ball. Penalty kick, United States.
Sinclair, the Canadian captain, continued to ask for explanations.
“She actually giggled and said nothing,” Sinclair said of Pedersen. “Classy. . . . We feel cheated.”
Wambach knocked home the tying goal. At that point, who knew more than 40 minutes of soccer remained? In the 101st minute, O’Reilly arrived. She settled in. And later, with the clock ticking down, she looked for Morgan.
“This is what we live for,” Morgan said.
And because she got her head on that ball, the Americans have another moment for which to live. That it is against Japan is only appropriate.
“This is a rematch,” Lloyd said. “This is redemption for us. We know how bad it was for us after that game. We know how it felt.”
They also, time and again, know how it feels to win in pit-of-the-stomach fashion. When it was over, in the bedlam of a full-on pigpile, Wambach found Morgan and said, “I think I’m in love with you right now.” When the pile broke up, U.S. Coach Pia Sundhage found Morgan, too, and delivered a message.
“Remember one thing,” she said. “Promise yourself one thing: Remember this moment.”
It should not be difficult. That moment — one pass, one shot, one goal — ended a ridiculous night, put the Americans in the gold medal game, and provided a memory that couldn’t possibly be scrubbed from the brains of those involved.