The Americans can be forgiven for choreographing some excitement into their Olympic experience. Their 2-0 victory over New Zealand not only moved them into Monday night’s semifinal against old rival Canada, but also gave them wins in all four of their Olympic matches. They have scored 10 goals since an opponent last pushed one past goalkeeper Hope Solo. They are two wins away from a third consecutive gold medal, and they profess that’s “the only thing that matters,” Wambach said.
But on the route to London and Wembley Stadium, where the gold medal match will be contested Thursday, the Americans figure there must be amusement. So they have, after scoring goals, slid into the corner. They have lined up and done some sort of squiggle, alternately described Friday as a “worm” or a “snake.” And after they watched Douglas’s inspirational all-around gold during a team meal Thursday, they came up with Friday’s shenanigans.
“Just having some fun with it,” midfielder Carli Lloyd said. “Just trying to get the crowd going and do something special.”
But for every bit of fun, there is the chance someone will feel shown up. New Zealand Coach Tony Readings was effusive in his praise of the Americans’ play Friday, describing in detail the difficulties presented by the bruising Wambach and the fleet Morgan up front, calling Solo “probably the best goalie in the world,” praising their organization and their depth. But Readings was then asked about the cartwheels.
“We wouldn’t do it,” he said without hesitation. “I wouldn’t like it if our team did that. I think when teams concede [a goal], and they’re disappointed, and they want to get on with the game, it’s not something we would do. But it’s obviously something that the Americans do. We’ve seen it a few times in this tournament.”
Likely, they’ll see it a few more. U.S. Coach Pia Sundhage, a relentless optimist, shrugged off any suggestion her players should be reined in.
“Nah,” she said. “I’m not a psychologist. I don’t know. We score goals, and we’re happy. If [that’s] how the players want to do it, whatever they do, it has to be fun. If they come up with ideas, that’s perfectly fine.”
In order to have the celebrations, and even any rumblings of controversy, they must score. Wambach has done that four times in four games here, even as she undergoes myriad daily treatments on her battered body. Morgan, too, had ample opportunities Friday, though she couldn’t convert.