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No Apologies for Team America

I’ve allowed for a number of hours to pass and a night of sleep to take place before articulating thoughts on the final of the women’s world cup match.

In a sport that is gains attention in the United States only a handful of times over the course of a year, the story of the finale between the U.S. and Japan was one all too familiar with so many sports fans around the country.

Anyone who understands sports that watched the first twenty minutes of the final on Sunday surely had a feeling of just how it would end, and were that person a fan of the United States, it was a feeling of dread. It was the feeling, deep down, that you’ve seen this game before, where a heavily favoured team, dominating the opponent, one with all the chances, loses in the end.

I’ve waited to hear from sports people I respect. Tim Colishaw on Pardon the Interruption made an important comment, saying that women want and deserve equality in sports, so it is fair in saying they choked. Colishaw was replacing Tony Kornheiser on the show, but if he did make an appearance on radio or television today, he would surely call them “choking dogs.”

It would be easy to blame the coach. It would be easy to blame the coach when the number one ranked team loses a game in which they are favoured to a team they have beat each and every 25 times they have played.

So let’s do that right now. Firstly, why would you start a super-sub in Megan Rapinoe and change up a dynamic that has been working so well? There is no shame in not started, and coming off the bench in the second half has worked so well all tournament long.

Secondly, why take Rapinoe out? You want here on penalties if they are to occur, and she is one of the most talented and spirited players on the field.

Thirdly, rarely in a game does a team blow a lead and then get the chance to atone for such defensive lapses. When the United States had nine minutes left and conceded a goal due to lack of focus. Still the U.S. was able to take another lead, only to give it up once more in extra time. Clearly, the team did not learn from their first mistake. Hope Solo was ill advised to waste time if she was indeed feigning a leg injury, giving time to the Japanese to set up the corner that lead to the tying goal.

Finally, from where does one come up with such an order for the penalties? Whether or not penalties should decide the end of a match, even one as important as the finale to the World Cup, is another debate. Why, however, would you not put your best player, your most veteran athlete, to start the shootout. In such a mentally tough contest, why not start with a sure thing and get the first goal to not only put the pressure on the opponent, but lessen the pressure for teammates to follow. Tobin Heath had played only a matter of minutes, but was on the line to, following a teammate’s missed opportunity.

Alas, they lost. The frustration will pass, and there will be a chance to atone at the next Olympics. Just because they are women, and just because it is not a popular sport in America, doesn’t mean we have to apologize for the game and act like it was still a partial success. Landon Donovan’s dramatic goal against Algeria was memorable, but lessened when the team choked and lost to Ghana. The same will be said of Abby Wambach’s header in the final minute against Brazil.

They should have won.

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