US tops Japan to take Olympic women's soccer gold

840449.png

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.

Quick Links

Ruth's Chris Sizzling Stats: 5 numbers that define Ravens-Jaguars

Ruth's Chris Sizzling Stats: 5 numbers that define Ravens-Jaguars

Baltimore got its third win of the young season with a victory over Jacksonville on the road Sunday. Here are 5 Sizzling Stats from that game and looking forward, presented by Ruth's Chris. 

1) 64.0 -- Joe Flacco's Passer Rating on Sunday. It was his lowest Passer Rating in a Baltimore victory since Nov. 11, 2013 when the Ravens beat Cincinnati, 20-17, in overtime. Flacco's Passer Rating in that game was 60.0.

2) 4-of-4 -- Justin Tucker's made and attempted field goals on Sunday. He has gone 4-of-4 in six other career games. His career high for makes on a perfect day was set Dec. 16, 2013 when he went 6-of-6 in a win over Detroit. 

MORE RAVENS: HARBAUGH SHUTS DOWN CRITICS

3) 3 -- Through three weeks, the number of Ravens victories this season by one possession or fewer. For comparison, 14 of Baltimore's 16 games last season were decided by that margin. In those 14 games, Baltimore was 5-9. Close games now going their way?

4) 2009 -- The last time the Ravens started the season 3-0. They would go on to finish 9-7 in the regular season and beat New England in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

5) 0 -- Amont of patience Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith appears to have for Jacksonville rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey, as demonstrated by his postgame comments.

Quick Links

X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

The Nationals got a dose of good news on a night All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos went down with a potentially serious knee injury, as Bryce Harper's X-ray came back negative, meaning there are no broken bones in his left thumb.

Harper, 23, suffered the injury sliding into third base on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. He had the X-ray on Monday morning and the team is of course pleased to hear the results.

"He could be back within a couple days, a few days. That’s big right there," manager Dusty Baker said. "The swelling’s down, so I think his strength is up, I heard. It’s very positive. We still got time for him to get well.”

Getting Harper back soon would be huge for a Nationals team that just saw Ramos go down and recently saw Daniel Murphy injure his left buttock and Stephen Strasburg strain his right flexor mass.

Murphy's injury is also not expected to be serious. Baker even said on Monday that it's "very likely" he will be ready to go for the playoffs. But that's four of the Nats' five All-Stars now injured to varying degrees with just six games left in the regular season.

At least with Harper, they may have dodged a bullet.

[RELATED: Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope injury isn't serious]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES