Olympic Soccer Live Blog: Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo Lead U.S. Women’s Soccer Past Japan, Into Golden Paradise

Olympic Soccer Live Blog: Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo Lead U.S. Women's Soccer Past Japan, Into Golden ParadiseFinal, 2-1 United States: It’s all over from Wembley Stadium, and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has won the gold medal at the 2012 women’s Olympic soccer tournament.

Carli Lloyd is the hero, as her two goals and boundless energy propelled the U.S. past Japan.

The two teams have different styles and strengths, but they treated fans to another closely contested classic of a final. Japan had plenty of chances to tie the game in the second half, but Solo, Buehler, Rampone and friends were able to withstand its pressure until the final whistle.

The U.S. was a team that relied on its high-powered attack throughout the Olympics, and that saw it through in the end. Scoring 16 goals in 6 games is a testament to the Americans’ attacking quality. It outweighed a less than assured defense when all was said and done.

That’s all for now and thanks for joining us. Let’s discuss this one on Twitter @NESNsoccer and Facebook. Be sure to keep an eye out for some news, fan reactions, analysis and opinion that is on the way on NESN.com.

84th minute, 2-1 United States: Solo makes a fantastic save to preserve the U.S. lead.

Rampone was dispossessed by Tanaka, who took it into the area and curled a shot to the far post.

But Solo dove to her left and turned it away at full stretch.

She is considered the world’s best goalkeeper by some measure, and she just proved why.

80th minute, 2-1 United States: Buehler is coming off and Sauerbrunn is taking her place next to Rampone.

80th minute, 2-1 United States: Did Morgan just find Rampone’s head in the area?

She sure did. The U.S. center back burst forward in support of Morgan. Her head met the cross, but it went well wide.

She is one of the few Americans with a little bit of energy left in the tank.

74th minute, 2-1 United States: Japan continues to threaten — primarily through Miyama’s set-piece deliveries — and the U.S. keeps dodging those bullets.

Wambach is working hard on the defensive end, but that leaves Morgan isolated in the American attack.

When the U.S. repels Japan’s attack, Morgan tries to create something on her own, but her efforts have been fruitless in the second half. She needs O’Reilly, Wambach or Heath as an outlet if the U.S. wants to be effective in the counterattack.

68th minute, 2-1 United States: The second half is turning into the slugfest we all predicted.

Japan is weaving the ball through the midfield and threatening the U.S. goal with ease, but the Americans are as dangerous as ever going forward.

Fukumoto turned away Buehler’s close-range shot to keep the score as is, but you have to think this game has at least another goal in it.

63rd minute, 2-1 United States: The U.S. was caught flat-footed in defense and Japan punished its opponent for it.

Ogimi was the goal scorer. Sawa ran onto a pass in the area, but wasn’t able to shoot. The deflected ball fell to Ogimi at the far post, and she slotted it home.

57th minute, 2-0 United States: Cheney is coming on for Rapinoe, who was awesomely ineffective in this game.

The Tilda Swinton-esque playmaker might get credit for an assist on Cheney’s second, but that was her most noteworthy contribution to the contest.

54th minute, 2-0 United States: Lloyd is enjoying a dream final and caps it by scoring a wonderful second goal.

She took a pass from Rapinoe in midfield, drove forward to the penalty area and lashed a right-footed strike that thunder-strike inside of the far post.

51st minute, 1-0 United States: Japan has committed to pushing forward, but that leaves a lot of space behind the defense.

Heath, Morgan and Wambach nearly combined to punish Japan with a second, but Fukumoto was able to punch Morgan’s cross away before Wambach’s head could meet it.

47th minute, 1-0 United States: Japan has the first look at goal.

Miyama floated a free kick into the area, Solo came off her line to punch it away and collided with Buehler and Kumagi.

They emerged unscathed, but Japan has signaled its intent to take the game to the U.S. in the second half.

Halftime, 1-0 United States: Lloyd’s strike stands as the difference between the two teams as the referee brings the first half to a close.

The U.S. exploded out of the box to start the game, and the eighth-minute goal was just rewards for its advantage.

But Japan settled into the contest and created a number of scoring chances. The crossbar, Solo’s saves and Rampone’s timely interventions prevented what would have been deserved Japanese goals.

The U.S. closed the half well, and could have doubled the lead in the latter stages.

42nd minute, 1-0 United States: Wambach attempts to get on the end of a Rapinoe cross, but she ends up kicking Kumagi in the face.

The big U.S. striker has dished out — and taken — her fair share of punishment in these Olympic games.

37th minute, 1-0 United States: Japan’s strategy is starting to come into focus.

The Nadeshiko are allowing the U.S. to push forward, but once they get possession, they counter-attack with pace and are usually able to exploit gaps in the American defense.

Ohno took one of these opportunities and curled a shot just wide of Solo’s goal.

33rd minute, 1-0 United States: Solo needs to buy the crossbar something nice after this game.

Miyama took a pass from Ohno in the area and shot on goal, but it rattled the crossbar. Solo was beaten by the powerful shot, but her best friend was there to bail her out.

28th minute, 1-0 United States: The U.S. nearly makes it two.

Lloyd swung a cross into the area, and Iwashimizu tried to intervene with her head. Instead of clearing it, she headed it off the near post. She was ableo to clear it before Morgan reached the rebound, but Japan is not looking secure in the defense.

26th minute, 1-0 United States: The U.S. got away with a missed call.

A Japan free kick hit Heath in the hand (and she was inside the penalty area), but the referee did not call the handball.

20th minute, 1-0 United States: The U.S. started the game with much more energy than Japan, and it yielded an early goal.

But both teams are reverting to form as the game progresses. Japan is keeping the ball on the ground and threading passes through the American defense.

The U.S. remains dangerous going forward. Wambach and Morgan are getting plenty of service from the midfield and causing problems for the Japanese defense.

But the U.S. backline has been threatened on two occasions that could have lead to goals. Lloyd and Boxx need to do a better job of breaking up plays in the midfield or Sawa will be able to link with the forward line and punish the Americans.

17th minute, 1-0 United States: And right on cue, Japan mounts a bit of possession and opens up the American defense on two occasions.

Ogimi headed a shot from close range, but Solo tipped it onto the crossbar.

15th minute, 1-0 United States: The goal seems to have rattled Japan, which has looked far more likely to concede a second than score a first.

The U.S. has been able to move the ball through the midfield and attack the defense with ease since Lloyd’s goal.

8th minute, 1-0 United States: The U.S. takes an early lead, and it’s Lloyd who opens the scoring.

Heath crossed along the ground to Morgan, who collected it at the six-yard box, turned and crossed it across the face of goal to Wambach.

Wambach was just about to hit it on the volley, but Lloyd made a late run and headed it before Wambach could make contact.

4th minute, 0-0: The U.S. has the early advantage in possession and territory, and it yields the game’s first scoring chance.

Morgan touched it over a defender — sombrero style — and dribbled into the area. She shot with her left foot from a tight angle, but it went right to Fukumoto who saved it comfortably.

Pregame: Hello and welcome to our coverage of the gold medal game in the women’s Olympic soccer tournament.

The U.S. and Japan have been the standout in teams in the competition and it’s only fitting they meet at the iconic Wembley Stadium in the final.

The Americans have reached the final of all five Olympic tournaments, and they can clinch their third-straight gold medal with a victory.

Japan slowly ascended up the mountain of international soccer before reaching the summit in 2011. It finished fourth in the 2008 Olympics, and looks to retain its title of “best in the world” by winning gold.

2 p.m.: Here are the lineups:

United States

Hope Solo (1), goalkeeper
Amy Le Peilbet (6), left back
Christie Rampone (3), center back
Rachel Buelhler (16), center back
Kelley O’Hara (5), right back
Shannon Boxx (7), midfielder
Carli Llloyd (10), midfielder
Heather O’Reilly (9), midfielder
Megan Rapinoe (15), midfielder
Alex Morgan (13), forward
Abby Wambach (14), striker

Substitutes

Nicole Barnhart (18), goalkeeper
Heather Mitts (2), defender
Becky Sauerbrunn (4), defender
Tobin Heath (17), midfielder
Amy Rodriguez (8), midfielder
Heather O’Reilly (9), forward
Sydney Leroux (11), forward
Lauren Cheney (12), forward

Japan

Miho Fukumoto (1), goalkeeper
Yukari Kinga (2), right back
Azusa Iwashimizu (3), center back
Saki Kumagi (4), center back
Aya Sameshima (5), left back
Aya Miyama (8), midfielder
Mizuho Sakaguchi (6), midfielder
Homare Sawa (10), midfielder
Nahomi Kawasumi (9), midfielder
Shinobu Ohno (11), striker
Yuki Ogimi (17), striker

Substitutes

Ayumi Kaihori (18), goalkeeper
Kyoko Yano (12), defender
Asuna Tanaka (14), midfielder
Kozue Ando (7), midfielder
Asuna Tanaka (14), forward
Karina Maruyama (13), forward
Megumi Takase (15), forward
Mana Iwabuch (16), forward

8 a.m. ET: The nightmare started 388 days ago when the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team lost to Japan in the final of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but the Americans can wake up to a golden reality by beating the Japanese in the final of the women’s Olympic soccer tournament on Thursday.

Ever since that shootout loss in Frankfurt, Germany, the U.S. women have labored and toiled with the goal of reaching Thursday’s game in mind. They have done so as one unit, as only one player on the Olympic team, Sydney Leroux, was not on the World Cup roster.

The U.S. team has formed a tight bond that has carried it through the 2012 Olympics. It overcame deficits against France and Canada, showing a fighting spirit that has made the country stand at attention when the “girls of summer” take the field.

Head coach Pia Sundhage will look to playmaker Megan Rapinoe, the potent Abby Wambach-Alex Morgan forward partnership and the lethal U.S. attack to lead the way. Wambach, who missed the 2008 games with a broken leg, has scored in every game at these Olympics, while Morgan is flourishing as a starter. The U.S. has scored 14 goals in five games, and most expect it to add to that tally against Japan. But lapses in concentration have plagued the American defence. Goalkeeper Hope Solo and defender Christie Rampone will marshall a rearguard that will face its stiffest test yet.

Japan is the other standout team in the tournament, and it is looking to make history. No team has ever won the Women’s World Cup and captured Olympic gold the following year. The “Nadeshiko” play an intelligent, technical and versatile style that can cause any team problems. Captain Aya Miyama, striker Yuki Ogimi and reigning FIFA Women’s Player of the Year Homare Sawa look to beat the mighty Americans, inspire their nation once again, and fly first-class flight back to the land of the rising sun with gold around their necks.

In 2011, the two teams played what some consider the greatest-ever World Cup final. If Thursday’s game is anything like that one, fans will be talking about it for years to come.

Join us here for the Women’s Olympic Soccer gold medal game. We’ll have all the action starting at 1:45 p.m.

Have a question for Marcus Kwesi O’Mard? Send it to him via Twitter at @NESNsoccer, NESN Soccer’s Facebook page or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

Photo via Facebook/GOALden Times

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