MANCHESTER, England -- Three thoughts after the U.S.' 4-3 victory over Canada in extra-time in the Olympic semifinals, sending the U.S. to the Olympic final and Canada to the bronze-medal game:
• This was one of the greatest games I've ever seen. What more could you ask for? Goals galore, unexpected comebacks, never-before-seen officiating calls and athletes giving everything they had with the Olympics on the line. The U.S. came from behind three times in this game, showing the cardiac-kids spirit that won over so many U.S. fans during their improbable World Cup victory over Brazil last year. In the end, it was Alex Morgan's injury-time header that made the difference on a perfect cross from late sub Heather O'Reilly -- the 2012 version of Rapinoe-to-Wambach in last year's World Cup quarterfinals. Canada will have some complaints about a call that led to the third U.S. goal (see below), but you have to admire both teams for providing an Olympic moment that we're likely never to forget. 4-3 in extra-time? Unbelievable.
• Christine Sinclair and Megan Rapinoe were incredible. The back-and-forth between the best Canadian and U.S. players in this tournament was breathtaking entertainment during a second half for the ages. Sinclair was immense, bagging a hat-trick and showing why she's one of the great scorers of all time. Her first goal showed her foot skills, while the next two showcased a player who has a mastery in the air. But Rapinoe was every bit her match, equalizing twice: the first time on an Olímpico during the Olympics, scoring directly from a corner kick (on an admittedly poor job of defending by Canada) and then firing a rocket from distance off the post and in for a 2-2 tie. Watching these players and teams trade haymakers was something special, the kind of game that makes you understand why there's no match for high-stakes soccer at its best.
• I saw something for the first time tonight. Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen made a game-changing call that incensed the Canadians when they were up 3-2 late in the second half. I have never seen a team in an elite-level game given an indirect free kick in the box for the opposing goalie being deemed to have held onto the ball longer than the six-second time limit. But that's exactly the call Pedersen made against Canadian keeper Erin McLeod. On the ensuing free kick, Rapinoe's blast hit Lauren Sesselmann in the hand, which seemed like a fairly straightforward penalty (though Canadian fans would probably disagree). Wambach nailed the spot kick, but there will be plenty of talk about that eyebrow-raising free kick call. If the referee had warned McLeod before, it might be a bit more understandable. If not, the U.S. most definitely caught a break.
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