SHANGHAI, China (August 15, 2008) – A dramatic diving header goal from Natasha Kai in the 101st minute of overtime gave the U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer Team a 2-1 victory against Canada and a berth to the semifinals of the 2008 Olympic Games.
The U.S. will now face Japan in the semifinal match at Beijing Workers Stadium on Monday, Aug. 18 at 9 a.m. ET live on MSNBC, Universal HD and the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel. Fans can also follow online via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.
The USA defeated Japan just six days ago by a 1-0 score in Group G play. It was the second game of the Olympics for both teams.
The U.S. had taken an early lead in the 12th minute on a goal from Angela Hucles, but less than 10 minutes later, sheets of rain starting falling, lightning cracked across the sky and thunder rolled through the stadium. The match was halted and delayed one hour and 39 minutes due to the lightning. The game picked up where it left off in the 21st minute, but nine minutes later Canada leveled the score at 1-1 on a 23-yard blast from captain Christine Sinclair. That score would stand until the Kai’s game-winner in the 101st minute.
Rain continued to fall throughout the match, but the field at Shanghai Stadium played extremely well and the U.S. team had the lion’s share of possession the entire match, piling up an amazing 34 shots to Canada’s eight.
The action was relatively quiet until Hucles scored her second goal of the 2008 Olympics in the 12th minute. The play started in the back as U.S. captain Christie Rampone played a long pass to Hucles near the midfield stripe. The U.S. then played the ball through Heather O’Reilly, Lindsay Tarpley and Carli Lloyd, who switched the ball from the left to the right wing, finding Amy Rodriguez free just outside the penalty area. Rodriguez dribbled toward the end line and crossed to the far post for O’Reilly, who played a forceful header on goal that goalkeeper Erin McCleod got her finger tips on. Hucles was there at the back post to tap the ball in for her career-high fifth goal of the year.
On the play, McLeod injured her right knee when she planted to make the save, and after a few minutes she was replaced by veteran Karina LeBlanc. Just after the substitution, the referee halted the match due to lightning in the area and the players could not return to the pitch for 84 minutes before getting 15 minutes to warm-up and the match proceeded at 8 p.m. local time.
Canada’s equalizer came in the 30 minute after the U.S. failed to control a throw-in in their defensive third. Canada’s Clare Rustad tackled the ball away from Carli Lloyd and the ball squirted into the path of Sinclair. The two-time Hermann Trophy winner from the University of Portland hit a first-time rocket from outside the penalty area that just eluded a full-stretch dive of U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo and ended up in the right corner of the net.
Following their goal, Canada dropped into a defensive shell that lasted the entire rest of the match, playing with one forward and looking to counter-attack. The USA’s crisp and patient possession produced a bushel of goal scoring chances as the running of young forward Amy Rodriguez caused all kinds of problems for the Canadians, but the USA could not punch through until the 101st minute.
Hucles had a great chance in the 34th minute when she was played through and had an open shot in the right side of the box, but cut her attempt wide of the left post.
The U.S. also had good looks at the Canadian goal in the 65th minute, when a Shannon Boxx header went just off-target, and in the 72nd minute, when Hucles was again in alone and her attempt to nutmeg the goalkeeper with a shot from close range was denied.
Just before the final whistle of regulation, Lloyd played a skillful through ball, curling her pass with the outside of her right foot to Rodriguez, who got a toe to the ball, but LeBlanc made her best save of the day to palm the low shot around the post. Lloyd’s header on the subsequent corner kick went wide and the U.S. faced overtime against Canada for the third time in the last seven meetings between the CONCACAF rivals.
U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage began overtime by bringing on Kai for O’Reilly and dropping Hucles back into the right midfield slot. Eleven minutes later, the move paid off as Kai stuck her close-range header past LaBlanc. The goal evolved as Rodriguez dropped a pass back to Boxx on the left wing. Boxx hit a first time, left-footed cross that curled directly into the path of Kai, who stayed onside to beat her flat-footed marker to the ball four yards out, sending a bullet header under LeBlanc and into the left corner.
Forward Lauren Cheney made her Olympic debut in the 109th minute, coming on to replace Rodriguez. In 11 minutes, she managed to take two dangerous shots that went wide as the U.S. looked for an insurance goal, as well as earn a yellow card and help the USA hold possession to mile the clock.
Boxx, whose play in the center midfield with Lloyd was key in the USA’s producing so many shots, earned her 100th cap in the match, becoming the 22nd female player in U.S. history to do so.
The match marked the final game on the Canadian bench for head coach Even Pellerud, who earlier in the year announced he was stepping down after the Olympics, and win over Canada was the USA’s fourth of 2008 over their northern neighbors, three of which were one-goal wins. The fifth meeting was a 1-1 tie in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying final in which the U.S. won the title 6-5 in penalties.
In other semifinal action, Japan ousted the hosts with a 2-0 victory in Qinhuangdao to earn a berth against the USA in the semifinal. On the other side of the bracket, Brazil topped Norway, 2-1, and will face Germany, which scored twice in overtime to defeat Sweden, 2-0, in the other semifinal, which will be played in Shanghai.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: USA vs. Canada
Competition: 2008 Olympic Games
Venue: Shanghai Stadium; Shanghai, China
Date: August 15, 2008; Kickoff – 6 p.m. local / 6 a.m. ET
Weather: Humid, Rain, 84 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 2 OT1 OT2 F
USA 1 0 1 0 2
CAN 1 0 0 0 1
USA – Angela Hucles (Heather O’Reilly) 12th minute.
CAN – Christine Sinclair (Clare Rustad) 30.
USA – Natasha Kai (Shannon Boxx) 101.
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 17-Lori Chalupny, 15-Kate Markgraf, 2-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone-Capt.; 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Carli Lloyd, 9-Heather O’Reilly (6-Natasha Kai, 91), 5-Lindsay Tarpley (13-Tobin Heath, 82); 16-Angela Hucles, 8-Amy Rodriguez (12-Lauren Cheney, 109)
Subs: 18-Nicole Barnhart, 4-Rachel Buehler, 14-Stephanie Cox, 10-Aly Wagner
Head Coach: Pia Sundhage
CAN: 18-Erin McLeod (1-Karina LeBlanc, 19); 3-Emily Zurrer, 9-Candace Chapman, 10-Martina Franko; 4-Clare Rustad, 6-Sophie Schmidt, 7-Rhian Wilkinson, 8-Diana Matheson; 12-Christine Sinclair-Capt., 14-Melissa Tancredi (17-Brittany Timko, 46, 16-Jonelle Filigno, 92+), 15-Kara Lang
Subs: 5-Robin Gayle, 11-Randee Hermus, 13-Amy Walsh, 2-Jodi-Ann Robinson
Head Coach: Even Pellerud
Statistical Summary: USA / CAN
Shots: 34 / 8
Shots on Goal: 17 / 7
Saves: 6 / 13
Corner Kicks: 7 / 1
Fouls: 15 / 18
Offside: 6 / 3
CAN – Martina Franko (caution) 70th minute.
CAN – Kara Lang (caution) 84.
USA – Lauren Cheney (caution) 111.
Referee: Jenny Palmqvist (SWE)
Asst. Referee: Helen Caro (SWE)
Asst. Referee: Hege Steinlund (NOR)
4th Official: Estela Alvarez (TOG)
Sierra Mist Woman of the Match: Shannon Boxx
2008 Olympic Women’s Soccer Quarterfinal Results - Aug. 15
USA 2, Canada 1 Shanghai
Japan 2, China 0 Qinhuangdao
Brazil 2, Norway 1 Tianjin
Germany 2, Sweden 0 Shenyang
2008 Olympic Women’s Soccer Semifinal Match-Ups - Aug. 18
Match-Up Venue Kickoff
Brazil vs. Germany Shanghai Stadium 6 p.m. local / 6 a.m. ET
USA vs. Japan Beijing Workers Stadium 9 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET