U.S. soccer gold is great moment of glory for Hope Solo
Hope Solo, the former Washington Husky who also plays for the Sounders Women, allowed just six goals in the Olympics.
WEMBLEY, England — Hope Solo found herself enveloped in a group hug at the final whistle.
The U.S. used a sparkling performance from goalkeeper Solo, the former University of Washington star, who made several acrobatic saves — including a diving stop in the 83rd minute to preserve the lead — as the Americans won their third straight Olympic gold medal Thursday, beating Japan 2-1.
It was a rematch of last year's World Cup final and the Americans' win avenged the most painful loss in their history.
"They snatched our dream last summer," said U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who this summer played with the Sounders Women along with Solo. "This kind of feels like the nightmare turned back around."
Solo needed a bit of luck, too — the Japanese had two shots ricochet off the cross bar and were denied what seemed to be a clear penalty kick in the first half.
"Today Hope Solo had a very good game. She brought the gold back to the United States of America," said U.S. coach Pia Sundhage.
This is the third gold medal for Solo. She was an alternate on the 2004 Olympic team and the starter in the 2008 Olympics in which both teams also won gold.
Solo allowed just six goals in the tournament, the second fewest by a goalkeeper in the tournament that played the maximum of six games.
This makes the second gold medal, and seventh overall, for Husky Olympians in London.
Before 80,203 fans at Wembley Stadium, an Olympic record for a women's soccer game, the teams put on a back-and-forth, don't-turn-your-head soccer showcase, proving again that these are the two premier teams in the world.
Carli Lloyd scored early in both halves for the U.S.
"We came so close to winning the World Cup," Abby Wambach said. "We knew if we put our energy and belief in each other into this year, we could pull off something special."
Back home, America was paying attention. Even President Barack Obama, while visiting the U.S. Olympic Committee's training center in Colorado Springs, Colo., offered a "special shout-out" to the women's team for its victory.
At the final whistle, many of the players paraded with the flag and put on celebratory T-shirts.
Solo was at the center of the biggest scrum, fitting for a player who was so crucial to the victory. The goalie gets a lot of flak for her off-field pursuits — including "Dancing With the Stars" and her candid comments on Twitter — but she made several plays Thursday that showed again that she's the best in the world at what she does.
"We felt like a team," Solo said. "Everybody felt like they could contribute. Everybody. ... Honestly, it's the first time in my athletic career that I felt like it was a true team."
Solo was brilliant in the final, making four saves.
"The Olympics is a perfect platform in terms of what life is," Wambach said. "You cannot win at everything you attempt in life. You have to be willing to fail and fall flat on your face in order to get glory. And we really did fail last year, in our opinion. We have to give Japan credit. They're a fantastic team.
"But anything less than winning for us is a failure. And we worked tirelessly all year long to prove that we still can win and we are still champions."
Japan's Mana Iwabuchi nearly had the equalizer in the 83rd minute — stripping the ball from captain Christie Rampone and swooping in alone against Solo — only to be thwarted when the goalie flung her entire body to the left to push the shot away.
"I knew I had to make the save," Solo said. "That was pretty much my only thought. I had to make that save."
|The U.S. team has won three consecutive Olympic titles and four of five since women's soccer was introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Games.|
|Note: Norway won in 2000.|