US Women Rally To Reach Olympic Final

Angela Hucles scored twice and Lori Chalupny and Heather O’Reilly each scored once as the U.S. advanced to the gold medal match with a 4-2 victory against Japan.

Since women’s soccer was added to the Olympic program in 1996, the U.S. is the only team that has advanced to all four Olympic Finals, and for the second consecutive time will play Brazil with the gold medal on the line. The U.S. defeated Brazil 2-1 in Athens to win their second gold medal.

Japan was dangerous from the start, forcing Hope Solo to make the save on a header off a corner kick in the fifth minute, and 11 minutes later getting the first goal of the game on a corner from the right side. The out-swinger was headed up in the middle of the penalty area and bounced out to the right side for Yukari Kinga. Kinga drove a low ball back into the center where Shinobu Ohno was all alone to settle and drive it under Solo.

The U.S. wasn’t without chances early. O’Reilly and Chalupny, both catalysts on the first two U.S. goals, each broke through into the area in the first 15 minutes. O’Reilly was muscled to the ground without a call, and Chalupny’s effort went wide.

Solo was again called to action in the 21st minute, diving to her left to palm away a low shot from 19 yards off the foot of Yuki Nagasato.

Later it was Solo that started the play that created the first U.S. goal in the 41st minute. A long goal kick from the U.S. goalkeeper bounced once before a Japan defender was forced to play a clearance wide right in the path of O’Reilly. She dribbled to the endline past Kyoko Yano and cut a low cross back to the top of the six yard box, past a sliding Amy Rodriguez and through the dummy of Lindsay Tarpley where Hucles tapped it into the open goal with her left.

Before halftime the U.S. took the lead as Chalupny finished a play that started with possession in the back for the U.S., and then Kate Markgraf played the ball forward to Carli Lloyd. She found Rodriguez checking back, who turned and played Chalupny free up the left wing. She cut back around the defender and hit a 17-yard rocket that hit the roof of the net.

In the second half, except for a stoppage time goal from Japan it was all USA as the defending gold medalists out-shot Japan 13-6 while adding two more goals.

In the 70th minute, O’Reilly scored her second improbable goal from distance during the Olympics. She received a throw in from Heather Mitts from deep on the right wing, and immediately hit the ball with the top of her left foot from well outside the penalty area that dropped into the goal over a helpless Miho Fukumoto.

Ten minutes later, Hucles scored her second of the game and her team-leading fourth of the Olympics on a skillful chip from a tight angle. Hucles dropped a corner kick off for O’Reilly, who promptly returned the ball. Hucles dribbled along the right edge of the penalty area before chipping a shot over Fukumoto from just two yards off the endline and one step inside the area. The assist was O’Reilly’s second of the game, and third of the tournament.

Japan would add a goal in stoppage time. A cross from the left win came in for Nagasato, who hit the near post with her shot before squaring the rebound for Eriko Arakawa to tap in from three yards out.

Brazil advanced to the final with a 4-1 victory against Germany, including two goals by Cristiane who is running away with the Golden Boot award with seven goals so far in the Olympics. Marta has also continued to prove why she’s regarded as one of the world’s top players, with four goals – tying her in the running for the silver boot with Hucles. Brazil is tied with the U.S. and Japan for most goals in the tournament, 11, while surrendering four with a 3-0-1 record.