America needed a hero, a player to find a way to score the go-ahead goal that the U.S. hadn’t been able to nab since falling behind in the first half.
Alex Morgan took the challenge.
Morgan, known best for her incredible combination of speed and skill, used her head on the pivotal play, sending a ball just over the outstretched Canadian goalkeeper’s hands into the back of the net to put the U.S. women’s national soccer team up 4-3. The goal gave the U.S. its first lead of the day in the 122nd minute — just a minute before injury time was due to end in what had become an intensely physical and tiring game for both sides.
The goal, reminiscent of Abby Wambach‘s epic header off a Megan Rapinoe cross against Brazil in last year’s FIFA World Cup, sends the U.S. to the Olympic final. It will play Japan, which dealt the Americans their heartbreaking loss on penalty kicks in last year’s World Cup final.
The U.S. had been dominant coming into Monday’s semifinal, winning all of its games in Olympic play and not allowing a goal since the the opener against France. But Canada got the edge in the first half, and the U.S. couldn’t counter until the 54th minute. Rapinoe was the hero then, slipping a curling corner kick into the net and then blasting another goal from the top of the box in the 70th minute. She also inadvertently set up a Wambach penalty kick in the 80th minute when her indirect kick went off a Canadian player’s arm.
But Morgan, who had not scored since netting two goals against France in the opening game, had the legs and the head to finally put the U.S. ahead Monday. After Team USA erased goals by Christine Sinclair three times in regulation, Morgan came through just before injury time expired. On a field full of players fighting injuries, fouls and flat-out tired legs, Morgan’s header provided an inspiring cap on what had been an incredible 120 minutes.
Check out video of the goal below.
Photo via Twitter/@BuzzFeedSports