US tops Japan to take Olympic women's soccer gold

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US tops Japan to take Olympic women's soccer gold

WEMBLEY, England (AP) -- Hope Solo found herself enveloped in a group hug at the final whistle. Abby Wambach ran to join the fun in a celebration that unleashed a year of bottled-up frustration. The U.S. women's soccer team won its third straight Olympic gold medal Thursday, beating Japan 2-1 in a rematch of last year's World Cup final and avenging the most painful loss in its history. Carli Lloyd scored early in both halves, Solo leaped and dived to make saves, and the entire roster found the redemption it had been seeking since that penalty kick shootout loss in Germany last summer. Before 80,203 at Wembley Stadium, a record crowd for a women's soccer game at the Olympics, the teams put on a back-and-forth, don't-turn-your-head soccer showcase, proving again that these are the two premier teams in the world. Women's soccer is still in its formative stages in Britain, but the match proved more than worthy for the hallowed grounds of the beautiful game. And the Japanese perhaps played just as beautifully as the Americans, using their speed and discipline to dominate possession and scoring chances for long stretches before finally cutting a 2-0 deficit in half with about a half-hour to go. Back home, America was paying attention -- just as it was last year and despite the rest of the Olympic events. Even President Barack Obama, during a campaign speech at Colorado College during the second half of the game, noted that, "The women are doing pretty good right now in soccer." Lloyd's goals came in eighth and 54th minutes, making it four goals in the tournament for the midfielder who lost her long-held starting job weeks before the Olympics. She got back on the pitch when Shannon Boxx injured her hamstring in the opening game and started every game since. Yuki Ogimi answered in the 63rd minute, and Asuna Tanaka nearly had the equalizer in the 83rd -- only to be thwarted when Solo flung her entire body to the left to push the ball away. The U.S. team has won four of the five Olympic titles since women's soccer was introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Games, settling for mere silver at the 2000 Games in Sydney. In the first half, Japan was unfortunate not to have a penalty kick awarded for a clear hand ball by U.S. midfielder Tobin Heath, who stuck out her left arm to stop a free kick inside the area. Japan also had two shots hit the crossbar, one off the left hand of a leaping Solo, who was kept consistently busy for the first time this tournament. The closest the U.S. came to doubling the lead in the first 45 minutes came when Azusa Iwashimizu attempted to clear a routine ball played in front of the net -- and headed it off the post. The U.S. goal in the eighth minute began with a run by Heath down the left side. She fed Alex Morgan, who settled the ball near the goal line, spun and chipped it toward Wambach. Wambach raised her left foot for the shot, but Lloyd charged in and got to it first, her strong running header beating goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto from 6 yards out. Lloyd extended the lead with a 20-yard right-footer just inside the left post after a long run with the ball through the middle of the Japanese defense. Ogimi soon cut the deficit to one after a mad scramble in front of the net. Captain Christie Rampone saved a shot off the line, but the ball went to Homare Sawa, who fed Ogimi for the tap-in. Another scramble followed after U.S. defender Amy LePeilbet saved yet another shot off the line in the 74th minute, but this time her teammates were able to corral the ball before a Japanese player could pounce on it. Boxx was back into the starting lineup after the missing four games with the hamstring injury. Lauren Cheney, who injured an ankle in the semifinals, began the game on the bench for the first time this tournament. Canada won the bronze earlier Thursday, beating France 1-0 at Coventry.

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Need to Know: Is there a surprise coming for the Redskins defensive coordinator job?

Need to Know: Is there a surprise coming for the Redskins defensive coordinator job?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, January 22, 95 days before the NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 38
NFL free agency starts 46
First Sunday of 2017 season 231

Sunday morning quick hitters

Talk that Greg Manusky is the favorite to get the promotion to Redskins defensive coordinator seems to be based more on deductive reasoning than from any reports from Ashburn. I think he is likely to be the guy but I’m not sure that there won’t be a surprise selection for the job.

The four-year, $42 million contract extension the Rams gave WR Tavon Austin will set the market for DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Both of their expiring contracts averaged about $8 million per year so they could be in line for healthy raises the year after turning 30. As in other sports, the market is often set by what your dumbest competitior is willing to pay. 

I didn’t give a second thought to leaving DeAngelo Hall off my projection of the defensive roster for the coming season. He said that he would be willing to redo his contract, which calls for him to make $4.25 million this year. That’s fine but I think that the organization will look at the 32 games he missed in the last three seasons combined and decide that they can’t keep a player that they can’t rely on at any price.

How hot is Jay Gruden’s seat in 2017? Assuming he keeps his quarterback, I think that he will be fine with a 10-win season and he will be toast with double-digit losses. The tough call will be if they finish 8-8 or even 9-7 with a playoff miss.

There was a lot of talk about how the Redskins’ salary cap spending on defense last year ($36 million) was dwarfed by what was spent on offense ($78 million). As of right now, the Redskins’ spending is about even, with $57.3 million going to offense and $59.2 million to defense. We’ll see how even the expenditures wind up being when the season starts in September.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Morning tip: Wizards' Brooks confident in Beal despite shooting slump

Morning tip: Wizards' Brooks confident in Beal despite shooting slump

Right in the middle of the best season of his career so far, Wizards guard Bradley Beal is mired in his worst shooting slump as an NBA player.

In their loss to the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night, Beal shot just 4-for-15 from the field and 0-for-7 from three-point range. In his last three games, Beal is just 12-of-42 (.286) from the field and 1-of-21 from three.

Beal, in fact, has now missed 19 straight three-point attempts. That's the longest three-point slump of his career. 

Beal hasn't hit a three now in two straight games, each time going 0-for-7. That follows a career-best streak of 30 straight games in which he had at least one three. And this current three-game slump comes after he went 14-of-22 (63.6%) in four outings.

Going without a three for two straight games matches the second-longest draught of Beal's career. His longest was five games, back in December of 2012, his rookie season.

It's just not often you see Beal go this cold and, as a result, he is currently shooting a career-low 38.4 percent from three this season.

Those numbers are ugly, but head coach Scott Brooks believes Beal will snap out of it soon.

"Every player in this league is going to go through some shooting slumps. Hopefully he can get out of it in the next game," Brooks said.

That next game will be Monday in Charlotte, as the Wizards close a three-game road trip against Eastern Conference teams. In order to break out of his recent slide, Beal just needs to keep shooting, Brooks says:

"He’s getting good looks. They aren’t falling for him right now. But I’ve been around Brad for four, five or six months now. He’s diligent in his work. He gets his shots in. He doesn’t change his routine. I think that’s the best way to get out of some missed shots. But he’s getting good looks."

Beal's Saturday night also included two scary moments, both in the fourth quarter. With just over five minutes left, Beal crashed hard to the floor and hit his head on the hardwood.

Later in the quarter, Beal fell in a heap under the basket and grabbed his left knee. It has been a tough few days for Beal, but Brooks is not at all concerned.

"He just needs to keep believing in it becuase I do and his teammates do," he said.

[RELATED: VIDEO: Pistons beat Wizards on last second tip-in]