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U.S. women’s soccer ‘Greatness Has Been Found’ shirts cause a stir

The celebration that took place on Thursday after the US women’s soccer team beat Japan to win the gold medal looked more like the postgame festivities of a Super Bowl than an Olympic event. The parading around with the American flag was standard, but then out came the custom-made t-shirts. Hope Solo, Abby Wambach and company pranced around in Nike t-shirts that read “Greatness Has Been Found” across the front of them. Over the past 24 hours or so, those shirts have been the source of a great deal of criticism.

“USA players have donned t-shirts reading ‘Greatness has been found,'” Canadian writer Jerrad Peters wrote on Twitter after the match. “That, in a nutshell, is why no one outside the US likes them.”

The backlash was not only handed out by writers and fans from abroad, as many Americans also found the shirts to be a tasteless display of poor sportsmanship.  Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times tweeted that the shirts showed no humility and called them “gross,” although he later clarified that his criticism was aimed at Nike and not the US players.

The US women’s team was also criticized earlier in the tournament for celebrating with cartwheels and other displays that opponents and fans thought were excessive. While it is easy to understand the excitement they were feeling at the moment they captured the gold — especially given the heart-breaking loss they suffered against Japan in the World Cup — they probably should have toned it down in retrospect. Olympic competition is supposed to bring sportsmanship to its own level, and it’s easy to see how a celebration that includes championship gear could irritate opposing countries.

H/T Off the Bench

Alex Morgan’s stoppage time header sends US women to gold medal match (Video)

The US women’s soccer team advanced to the Olympic gold medal match on Monday after what was one of the most exciting few minutes of the London Games. The US defeated Canada 4-3 in extra time to score a date against Japan in the finals on Thursday. After Abby Wambach scored yet another goal on a penalty kick to tie the game at 3-3 in the 80th minute, Alex Morgan added what would become the game-winner on a beautiful header that she floated over Canada goalie Erin McLeod’s head.

The goal was arguably the most thrilling moment of the London Olympics for the US, who never led in the match until extra time. The win sets up a rematch against Japan, which as you may remember is the team that defeated the US in a heart-breaking game that came down to penalty kicks in the World Cup final last summer.

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U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Was in Separate Wing Of Hotel Doing Yoga When Deadly Shooting Occurred in Lobby

When a deadly shooting occurred inside the Sheraton Wall Centre hotel lobby on Tuesday in Vancouver, the U.S. Women’s soccer team was not far away. In fact, they were in the same hotel. According to the Vancouver Sun, a man is his 20s was shot multiple times and killed. No players or staff from the U.S. team witnessed the incident, but the shooting occurred a bit too close for comfort as Hope Solo shared with us on Twitter:

“Saved by our instant Yoga session,” Solo wrote. “Was about to walk to Starbucks when all hell broke loose in the lobby of our hotel! Life is precious…”

Fortunately, the team was in a separate wing of the hotel when the shooting occurred and no players or staff are believed to have been near the lobby. The incident was supposedly a targeted one, but still frightening for the soccer team nonetheless. There have been no arrests and no information is known about any potential suspects.  Thank God for yoga.

H/T to Dirty Tackle for the story

Japan Needed the World Cup Win Over the U.S., They Deserved it

On March 11th, the entire world witnessed how the unexpected can tear a country to pieces. Four months later, it also saw how the unexpected can help knit it back together.

This past spring, Japan was subjected to one of the worst natural disasters the planet has known. A 9.0 earthquake shook the foundations of one of the most developed countries in the world, unleashing a maelstrom of chaos that was exacerbated by a tsunami that cruelly wrought destruction on anything and everything that wasn’t already reduced to rubble. The resulting chaos exacted a toll of casualties that still continues to increase in number. Families were torn apart. Lives were forever changed.

Stories continue to be told of survivors desperately searching the once bustling streets in areas now emptied out by the devastation. Parents combing through the debris in hopes that a fleeting miracle will give them back their lost children. Orphaned kids hoping for one last chance that they will see their loved ones walk through the door despite the growing odds to the contrary. There was a story last week told in the USA Today of a firefighter still seeking his wife and daughter amid the destroyed buildings in his hometown, searching through every creek, crack and crevice for their whereabouts. Logic tells any rational person that they are probably gone with the many others that perished on that awful March day. But, such reasoning falls woefully short in explaining why such a tragedy has befallen these people. Tell that to this father, who is convinced he will find his family somewhere, at least if nothing else but to bring closure to the desolation. Stories like this one are more the norm around the battered nation rather than the exception.

Sports function in many different ways in society. Sure, the entertainment value, the drama, and the story lines all have their places. Sports have often been referred to as the “toy store” for all the folks who have the privilege to work in the profession in some capacity: a game loved growing up as a child becomes the career that others wish they had. They also stand as a stark reminder of their place on the totem pole when played out against a backdrop of world events. Certainly, no one will discount the symbolism of an event like the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.” Cold War drama was played out on an ice hockey rink between the US and USSR, the two principals in the conflict. Two ideologies. Two countries at political loggerheads with one another. The United States’ triumph was seen as a victory in more ways than one, and served to put a dent in the Soviet Union’s notion of superiority. Sports sometimes are simply the setting. The drama that ensues is transcendent.

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Hope Solo: We Did Not Choke Against Japan in Finals

The U.S. women’s national team has been criticized for blowing 1-0 and 2-1 leads against Japan in the finals of the World Cup before losing on penalty kicks. The theme from most of the media has been that the team choked. What’s worse is that some people feel as if criticizing the team for choking is the ultimate sign of equality because it’s how the men would be treated. I find that to be nonsense, but that’s mainly because I feel like people are too quick to criticize the team that failed rather than praise the team that was victorious. Goalie Hope Solo also disagrees with that sentiment.

Appearing on SportsCenter, Solo responded to the critics. “I’ve been asked ‘Did you guys choke?’ so I think we’re getting criticized,” Solo acknowledged. “I don’t believe we choked. For so long people had been saying that our team has the best defense, we’re more athletically gifted, and we like to get the ball forward and find Abby’s head and that’s how we win.”

“Well in the final, we finally gave the world what they wanted,” Solo continued. “We were a possession-oriented team that attacked in different varieties, and unfortunately we didn’t come out on top. But it truly was our best game in the final of the World Cup in front of 60,000 people. So did we choke? I don’t think we choked, but everybody else who doesn’t truly know the game likes to say we did because of the penalty kicks.”

It’s great to hear Solo say that because the reality is there are very few soccer fans in the country, yet everyone professed to be an expert who understood the game during the World Cup finals. Regardless, we know one thing for certain: the U.S. women gained millions of fans during the tournament. Solo says she won’t get too carried away with her newfound celebrity status.

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Hope Solo, Abby Wambach Happy for Japan

This U.S. women’s soccer team blew 1-0 and 2-1 leads to Japan and lost in the finals of the World Cup on penalty kicks. They’re taking a lot of criticism for choking, but that’s not my focus. Sure it would have been nice to win, but this team will have a chance to earn a gold medal in London in 2012. Additionally, given the natural disasters in Japan, hopefully the World Cup win will be more uplifting for their country than it would have been for the U.S.

Many of the players on the American team share the same perspective.

Goalie Hope Solo, who said she hoped Japan would reach the finals, placed the loss in excellent context.

“We lost to a great team, we really did,” Solo conceded. “Japan is a team that I’ve always had so much respect for, and I truly believe that something bigger was pulling for this team. And as much as I’ve always wanted [to win the World Cup], if there’s any team I would give it to, it would be Japan.”

Abby Wambach, who scored to put the U.S. up 2-1, suggested a more powerful force was at work.

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Alex Morgan’s Goal Looked Like a Game-Winner (Video)

Alex Morgan scored in the 66th minute of the World Cup finals against Japan to break a scoreless tie. The goal caused a frenzy on twitter and led people to believe the U.S. was going to win the game given the lack of punch Japan had for most of the contest. But just as U.S. fans were celebrating, Japan’s Aya Miyami scored to tie the game at one 14 minutes later.

Morgan, who at 22 years old is the youngest player on the team, scored her second big goal of the World Cup. The former Cal Golden Bear also scored to help beat France in the semifinals. Don’t think the fans haven’t taken notice either; Morgan’s following on twitter exploded, sending her over 100,000 followers in a matter of minutes following her goal Sunday. Maybe the two big goals and her assist to Abby Wambach will be enough to get coach Pia Sundhage to start her from now on.

Video courtesy Jose3030 (follow him on twitter)