The Canadian women were not supposed to put up much of a fight against the US team. Our northern relatives had not beaten the US in eleven years, and hadn’t even enjoyed a lead against them in the last nine. Well, as McKayla Maroney will tell you, there is no sure thing in sports. The game was played with great intensity from both sides and is being called one of the best ever. Christine Sinclair, whom US striker Abby Wambach calls the most underrated player in the world (at 143, the two are currently tied for second behind the great Mia Hamm for most international goals scored), struck first in the 22nd minute by calmly side-stepping her defender in the box and right-footing past a diving Hope Solo. Megan Rapinoe tied the score in the second half on a corner that curled low inside the near post somehow eluding three Canadian defenders. Then came an absolute flurry of goals with Sinclair scoring on a header in minute 67, Rapinoe hitting a rocket in off the post in minute 70, and Sinclair yet again on another header off a corner at minute 73 (Why isn’t Wambach, also great in the air, marking Sinclair already on set plays?) 3-2 Canada.
Now controversy descends. The Canadian goalkeeper is called for delay of game, a whistle that’s rarely heard in professional soccer, and the Americans are given an indirect kick inside the eighteen yard box. Making matters worse, the kick itself results in a handball, a penalty kick is awarded to the US, and Wambach converts to equalize for the third time in the match. The women complete 90 minutes of regular time, then endure 30 more minutes of extra time. Both teams are physically and emotionally exhausted yet continue to push beyond their limits. Then, at minute 123, with 30 seconds to go in injury time before the game goes to the dreaded penalty kicks, Alex Morgan manages to rise above her defender and head substitute Heather O’Reilly’s distant cross into the Canadian net. It’s uncannily reminiscent of the US win vs Brazil in last year’s World Cup when Wambach tied the game in minute 119. How do they keep doing this? Canada provided incredibly staunch opposition, and yet somehow with deep reserves of faith, resolve, and willpower this United States women’s soccer team again prevailed.