Tar Heels Share in U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer Gold Medal

U.S. Women's Soccer Gold Medalists - AP Photo
   2012 U.S Women’s Soccer Goal Medalists included Heather O’Reilly ’09 
   and Tobin Heath ’10
AP Photo

Tar Heels Share in U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer Gold Medal

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Carli Lloyd, who kicked the winning goal for the United States the last time the Americans competed for the Olympic gold medal in 2008, scored two goals and goalie Hope Solo made several key saves Thursday as the women’s soccer team defeated Japan 2-1 to earn the gold medal again.

The win was redemption for the American squad, which blew a big lead and lost to the Japanese in last year’s World Cup.

Former Tar Heel Tobin ’Heath 10 was involved in the Americans’ first goal of this game, while former UNC teammate Heather O’Reilly ’09, who didn’t play, nonetheless won her third career gold medal. O’Reilly was a key to the semifinal win over Canada when she assisted the winning goal. Had it not been for O’Reilly, there might not have been a gold-medal game.

“That was a special game and a special moment” against Canada, said former U.S. and UNC soccer star Kristine Lilly ’93. “Alex Morgan’s header was great, but I think Heather O’Reilly’s ball (to her) was incredible.”

Another UNC and U.S. great, Mia Hamm ’94, who had not planned on attending the Olympics, said she was inspired by that victory over Canada and she wanted to witness the gold medal match in person as a fan.

She got to see a Carolina player, Heath, play prominently in the outcome against Japan. Eight minutes in, Heath drove the ball past a pair of defenders down low to Alex Morgan, who passed it cross goal to Lloyd, who charged in out of nowhere and headed it into the back of the net.

A pair of saves, including an athletic effort by Solo, who went up high and knocked a shot away with her left hand, kept the Japanese scoreless. Japan threatened again and got a free kick 25 minutes in. Heath got a hand on it to knock it away. Luckily, a hand ball was not called.

Heath got an opportunity to score herself late in the first half after she made a good move to get a shot off. But she was well out and didn’t have enough on it to challenge the goalkeeper. Analyst Brandi Chastain, a gold medalist herself, said Heath needed to show more patience and move in a little closer before taking the shot.

Japan had the momentum toward the end of the half but it didn’t extend into the second half. The USA’s Lloyd, in the 54th minute, took it from midfield all the way to the edge of the box and ripped one in on the left side to give the Americans a commanding 2-0 lead.

But Japan didn’t give up and it got close down the stretch. With less than 30 minutes to play, Japan’s Yuki Ogimi scored on a wild play. The U.S.’s Christie Rampone, helping out a diving Solo at the net, stopped one shot but she couldn’t get it out. The ball bounced around and Ogimi poked it in just in front of the net to draw the Japanese to within a goal at 2-1.

Japan had two more big chances over the last 20 minutes. There was a wild scene in front of net with 10 women in the six-meter box during the 73rd minute but the Americans were able to pinball it out of trouble. With less than 10 minutes to go, Rampone had it stolen away deep in U.S. territory. Asuna Tanaka had a one-on-one situation with Solo, who hadn’t been challenged much in the Olympics before this game. A diving Solo stretched out to the left and knocked it away at the last second to preserve the lead.

The Americans held on for the victory.


Ridge High Alumni Tobin Heath Gains Olympic Gold

Photo diagram of USA’s first goal against Japan

Missed hand-ball call involving Tobin Heath

Time Magazine: The U.S. Women’s Team is Golden Again in Soccer

ESPN: Beating Japan 2-1 brings closure to a yearlong mission of revenge

Clifton Barnes ’82