Thursday, August 9, 2012


The U.S. Women's Soccer Team plays the Japanese today in the gold medal match in the Olympics. This is the re-match of all re-matches after Japan beat us in the World Cup finals (and in penalty kicks no less)!

I am SOOOOO looking forward to it. It's anticipated suspense. If any of you watched the U.S. beat Canada in the semi-finals earlier this week then you'll know that it was quite possibly one of the most exciting women's soccer games in history. Canada would score, then we'd counter. Canada would score again, and we'd come back. There were shots dinging off the goal crossbar, dives, controversial calls, and one of the highest scoring games in Olympic history. And the end of regular play, it was still tied 3-3. That means overtime. As the clock ticked, each team kept getting closer and closer but, still, no more goals. It began to look like this, too, was going to end in penalty kicks and, in fact, the first penalty kick showdown in Olympic soccer history!

Let me tell you, there's nothing worse than deciding a big game in penalty kicks. It's incredibly exciting to watch but it's nerve-wracking as all h*ll.

As regular overtime had ended it left just three minutes of injury time on the board and that too was washing away quickly as both teams struggled to find energy after 119 minutes and 40 seconds of soccer. Our goalie Hope Solo prepared herself in the goalie box for what she--and the world--was certain would follow. And then with 20 seconds left in the game Heather O'Reilly sprinted down the right side of the field like a shooting start and sent up a ball like a Hail Mary, praying that it would find one of our players amidst the heavy Canadian defense. The ball lingered in the air, seconds passing and then...Alex Morgan rises up just a few extra inches above the defense flanking her sides. In that brilliant second, her head meets the ball and finds that sweet spot in the back of the goal. Morgan lands on the ground in the process failing to even witness the history she'd just made, though in the loud uproar of cheers ensured she felt the weight of it nevertheless.

This picture below captures fellow forward Abby Wamback's immediate reaction. It shows that kind of exhilarated excitement that can't be faked.

This is U.S. player Abby Wambach celebrating the down to the wire semi-final win against Canada. Don't you just wish you could bottle up this feeling?!

My hope for today's game is another heart pounder of beautiful soccer between the world's greatest women's soccer teams. Last time against Japan we were quite literally that team in the photo in White with our heads hung low, the sting of disappointment or, rather, heart break. But that's the suspense and the beauty of sports: anything's possible. I said to my husband after the Canada game that I was worried that Japan had an edge going into today's match since they'd have much fresher legs; their game was earlier than ours and they didn't have to play that extra 30 minutes of overtime. Then I saw shots like this one of Wamback and I changed my tune. While there's motivation for the Japanese to stay on top, never underestimate the power of of sweet revenge or a team fresh off a comeback and ready for more.

And this, too, is what we all need in our writing. We need action and the pacing to back it up. We need there to be those lingering questions about how the story will end, which side will win. We need to have that scoreboard counting down the dreaded seconds in the background and ensure the reader knows just what, exactly, is at stake. And when we do it right and the guy (or gal) our readers have been cheering for wins, we want the reader to not only be satisfied, we want them to be celebrating right alongside with them. We all want to be Abby Wamback.

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