Boston Breakers midfielder Heather O’Reilly will soon return to town with her third Olympic gold medal after the U.S. Women’s National Team beat Japan, 2-1, in the gold medal match Thursday at Wembley Stadium in London.
In front of 80,203 fans, midfielder Carli Lloyd scored both goals for the U.S., the first just eight minutes into the game. The buildup began when Tobin Heath played a ball into the box for Alex Morgan. After briefly losing possession in the box, Morgan collected the ball and quickly turned and chipped a pass to the top of the 6-yard box. That’s where Lloyd met the ball with her head and knocked it past Japan keeper Miho Fukumoto.
Japan nearly countered less than 10 minutes later on a header by Yuki Ogimi, but her redirect off a pass from Homare Sawa was tipped off the cross bar by Hope Solo. In the 33rd minute, Aya Miyama rocketed one off the bar, coming within inches of leveling the score.
The U.S. struck again early in the second half. It was Lloyd again. The midfielder took advantage of some open space in the middle of the field before launching a shot from 20 yards out. Her wonder strike in the 54th minute gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead. But Japan did not go away quietly. The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup champions got one back in the 63rd minute. Sawa had her shot cleared off the line by Christie Rampone, but the ball went right back to Sawa, who hit it over to Ogimi, who knocked it in to make it a 2-1 game.
The biggest play of the game, perhaps, came in the 83rd minute when Solo made an unbelievable diving stop on a shot by Mana Iwabuchi. Just eight yards from goal after taking the ball away from Rampone at the top of the box, Iwabuchi tried whipping a shot past Solo, but the U.S. keeper read it perfectly and made a tremendous diving punchout.
“This was a year’s worth of work and the sacrifices all of us have had to make for our friends and families, for the players that didn’t make the roster, this goes out to all of our fans that cheered us on last summer and were equally as heartbroken as we were," said U.S. forward Abby Wambach. "This year has been trials and tribulations, we lost to Japan a few times, and this win feels like everything has come full circle. I’m so proud of this team for never giving up. It was a team effort for this entire tournament and it shows what it takes to win championships -- it’s teamwork and loyalty and trusting in each other.”
The U.S. has now won four golds and one silver medal in its five Olympic appearances. O’Reilly is now one of four U.S. players to win three straight gold medals. O’Reilly, Rampone, Heather Mitts, and Shannon Boxx all won gold at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. This year’s team featured five former Breakers players - Mitts, Lauren Cheney, Amy LePeilbet, Rachel Buehler, and Amy Rodriguez - and one former coach, current USWNT Head Coach Pia Sundhage. Japan featured former Breakers midfielder/defender Aya Sameshima.