It's hard to know whether the typically stirring drama from the U.S. women's soccer team in its 2-1 Olympic final win over Japan can jump-start the women's professional game back at home. But with the vengeance the Americans earned for their World Cup final loss a year ago, they also spoke volumes about the state of the U.S. game:
Tactics didn't win the day; team and individual brilliance did. Carli Lloyd, the 2008 Olympic final hero, shut down complaints about the U.S. team's direct style of play -- in contrast to the delicate skill of the Japanese -- with two magnificent goals. The first, created by Alex Morgan's composure and vision in the box, was a fearless header through the boot of teammate Abby Wambach. The second, the game-winner, was Lloyd's moment of magic, a laser beam with eyes for the far post struck at the end of a top-speed run.
Hope Solo's saves reached further than her Twitter account. In the first half, the U.S. goalkeeper's full stretch pushed Yuki Ogimi's header off the crossbar. In the second, she gave away more than half of the goal to Asuna Tanaka but denied a goal as certain as a penalty kick with a mesmerizing dive to her left. Solo deserves the right kind of recognition for those moves.
Speaking of penalty kicks ... Tobin Heath got away with a hand ball in the first half. It won't diminish the U.S. triumph any less than controversy did against Canada in the semifinals. In the face of expectations and history, the U.S. women delivered with emotion and a result worthy of again capturing American hearts.
- Craig Stouffer