Sunday, December 07, 2008

(Women's) Football on a Sunday in December, continued

As if the College Cup had failed to deliver a veritable shipment of drama for the afternoon, the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup promised even more just thirty minutes later. Just the prospect of a US Women's match was thrilling. After all, the opportunities for donning my Carli Lloyd USA jersey are often scarcer than those Tickle Me Elmos were a few years ago.*

(* I actually tried to think of this season's toy craze, but couldn't, even after watching The Disney Channel for the past three hours. Darn. That's six episodes of Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers. For absolutely nothing. Now if you'll excuse me, I have friend coming over. He'll be here any minute now to whack me in the face with a shovel.)

What an affair it was. Before a sellout crowd of 12,000 hearty spectators in Santiago, Chile, the Americans and Koreans took to the pitch ready to decide ownership of the Cup.

During the opening minutes, it appeared Korea’s attack was far mightier than the American defense. A hard shot sting the palms of Alyssa Naeher before five minutes. The question of a Korean goal not only seemed imminent, but near.

But with Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan stirring in the offensive third, the Americans eventually discovered their form. They stationed themselves in the Korean end where, with a lightning quick touch from Keelin Winter, Leroux corralled it and fired a seering shot over the outstretched arm Korean keeper Kim Un Ju. The early advantage had been claimed.

And the Americans began to dominate possession. They were comfortable in tight spaces, and their distribution was machine-like. The Koreans chased and chased. They did not tire. And it still wasn’t enough.

That much was clear when a well-marked Morgan raced parallel to the goal, and with gravity pulling her down, unleashed an unlikely screamer from distance that kissed the twine of the far upper ninety. Just minutes before the interval, a 2-0 cushion had been acquired.

Out of the gate for half two, the Korea barely tasted the ball. It had been kept away by Tony DiCicco’s young midfielders and backs. Ra Un Sim must have felt like the baby who’s candy had been taken away. She was powerless.

With a clean sheet and championship in their sights, the Americans entered extra time almost salivating. They got ahead of themselves. And Cha Hu Nam finally breathed new life into her side with a fortuitous goal with only ninety minutes of stoppage afforded.

However much the Koreans pressed for a sudden equalizer, the Americans simply played back and returned the ball to the Korean end. Seconds later, the American substitutes and coaching personnel spilled onto the pitch. They bounced around like numbered ping pong balls. A dejected Korean contingent stared through the celebrations.

A happy crowd embraced the victors. The Americans returned the favor with a large “Gracias, Chile” banner. The stakes for this match had their own altitude, and twenty American women ascended the highest pinnacle to rightfully stake their claim.

The previous ninety promised to awarded the ultimate prize. It did not renege on that vow. The Cup belonged to the Americans.

Post-script I: For a football glutton like yours truly, this afternoon was like watching The Godfather II and Raging Bull for the first time, and back-to-back. Or, in a soccer-related note, watching the O.J. chase before Spain-Korea's 2-2 draw during USA '94.

You want drama? Skip the TNT.

Watch women’s soccer instead.

Post-script II: I just added an Alex Morgan #13 USA jersey to my Christmas list.

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