Lloyd Hat Trick Leads Solid USA Effort To World Cup Title


USA Women Capture Third World Cup Title

By John Ventola

Team USA got a kick out of Carli Lloyd Sunday in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals. Then another. And, finally, the biggest kick of all. This blogger does not know if Lloyd ever had a “Sweet Sixteen” growing up in New Jersey, but she had the sweetest sixteen minutes of her soccer career to spark America to a dominating 5-2 victory over Japan to avenge the 2011 finals loss to the crisp-passing opponent.

Lloyd scored attacking goals in the third and fifth minute, and after Lauren Holliday got

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Lloyd Ups It By A Minute, Sixteen Magical Minutes of Fame

in a kick of her own off a volley, added a sensational 54-yard shot from just over the midline when she spotted Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori over her line just sixteen minutes into the match. The long kick just cleared the hand of the backpedaling Kaihori.

Television cameras captured the befuddled looks on the faces of the defending champions that now faced a 4-0 deficit with seventy-four minutes left in what would turn out to be the highest scoring final in Women’s World Cup History.

A raucous pro-American crowd of 53,000 at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium went into a flag-waving frenzy during the early onslaught and even though such a score is usually insurmountable in low scoring soccer, it should have known a world class soccer team like Japan would have enough resiliency to at least attempt a comeback. The Japanese did just that, regrouping and scoring before the half, and adding a second half goal to cut the lead in half, 4-2. USA goalkeeper Hope Solo, who had faced only 10 goal attempts in six earlier matches, played her usual solid game, but fell victim of two well placed shots.

The first sixteen minutes of action seemed fitting as it had been sixteen years since the American women won their last World Cup. The Mia Hamm led 1999 contingent bested China in a 5-4 shootout after a scoreless match. That game, played before 90,000 in


First Women’s World Cup Title Since 1999

Rose Bowl Stadium, popularized the sport in America, and had every girl who could put on shin guards playing the game. Brianna Scurry’s diving World Cup-winning save clinched it, but a key defensive header by Kristine Lilly late in the second half made it possible, her play denying China a sure goal with Scurry out of position in the goal.

Brandi Chastain’s knee sliding, sports bra revealing, celebration after Scurry’s save seems to be etched in most sports fans memories. After Sunday, I am sure visions of Lloyd celebrating her hat trick performance will be hitting American memory banks everywhere.

USA coach Jill Ellis, the former UCLA women’s coach who led her team to the Final Four eight times before moving to international soccer, made all the right adjustments in the World Cup. She changed her alignments early in The Cup, but settled once the team showed it could shutdown opponents. She switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation from a

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Ellis Made All The Right Moves

4-4-2, a move that stabilized midfield, and freed up the wings. It allowed the team to attack further up the field, and Lloyd to use her uncanny anticipation and shot-making creativity. And boy, didn’t she become a creative genius during that magical sixteen minute run! Tony DiCicco, who coached the 1999 title team, did some tinkering himself, and found success once he settled on a set lineup, but none of his moves set loose one particular player like Ellis did with her strategy and alignment change.

Hope Solo was not doing it solo, she had plenty of help as centerfielders Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn played solidly and Ali Kreiger and Megan Klingenberg locked down the flanks. Megan Rapinoe seemed to be everywhere, as usual.The defense came within six seconds of breaking Germany’s World Cup shutout record when s Yuki Ogimi scored Japan’s first goal in the 28th minute Sunday.

Solo had posted five consecutive shutouts after allowing a goal to Australia in the team’s first match of the World Cup. Solo, who will be 34 at the end of July, earned the


Solo Again Proves She Is Best Goalkeeper

Golden Glove award as the best goalkeeper. She was the goalkeeper on the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics champions, and her World Cup performance cemented her reputation as the world’s top  female goalkeeper.

Lloyd, who playerd at Rutgers, was presented the Silver Boot Award and the Golden Ball Award, symbolic of the most outstanding player in the tournament. An athlete who has appeared in Glamour, Shape, and Sports Illustrated, and who has appeared on Good Morning American and Live with Kelly and Michael, the endorsements should be rolling in for Lloyd, who will turn 33 next week. She was also a member of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalists, in fact, she scored the winning goals in both clinching games.

Alex Morgan, 26, the young face of the sport, shook off a restrictive knee bruise and worked her magic with tremendous footwork, barely missed a couple creative shots. The forward and midfielder Lloyd formed a strong offensive duo.

Morgan Brian, the team’s youngest player at 22, and Tobin Heath, who scored USA’s final goal, both played well for the Americans. Each player came up with an outstanding effort at the most opportune time.

Abby Wambach, 35, probably ended her long, illustrious career with the victory, her first

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Wambach and Rampone Go Out On Top

World Cup to go with the two Olympic gold medals. The former Florida star was FIFA’s Women’s World Player of the Year in 2012, the game’s highest honor. She has been on the national team for fifteen years and scored 183 goals, 77 on headers. Her goal total is more than any man or woman has scored. At the conclusion of Sunday’s match Wambach rushed over to the grandstands for a hug and kiss from her wife Sarah Huffman.

Wambach and 40-year-old Christie Rampone both played late minutes in the match, a class move by Ellis. Perhaps more classy was Lloyd taking off her blue captain’s armband and placing it on Wambach when she took the field with twelve minutes remaining.

USA, USA, USA, now there are three women’s titles. Three out of the seven played. They have each been special, but this one seemed to carry some special significance because of the general condition of today’s world.

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