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Learn from this win

July 11, 2011
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor ( , The Herald-Star

My self-imposed boycott of ESPN took a detour Sunday afternoon.

The wife drove the daughter to Cedarville University for volleyball camp, so the son and I, after listening to a wonderful sermon on leadership by our youth pastor, Scott Abercrombie, sauntered home to watch United States take on Brazil in the Women's World Cup quarterfinals.

The son is one month away from soccer practice and he wants to be the goalie, so why not let him watch the best goalie in the world in Hope Solo.

After all, if you are going to learn, watch the best.

She's the best.

This column will not be about the controversial calls by the referee.

Those calls just add to the story.

This is about a group of women, down a player, who refused to allow the circumstances to dictate their attitudes.

This is about a group of women, up a player, who refused to play the game the way it's supposed to be played and they are now going home.

Instead of leaving the theatrics to people like Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway and Natalie Portman, Brazil decided to throw in a few Oscar performances of their own.

Fortunately for the Americans, their performances will spend more time on the Rotten Tomatoes list than than that of the Academy.

After a red card for the U.S. and a second penalty kick for Brazil tied the score at 1-1 in the 65th minute, the Americans played solid soccer for the next 25 minutes and outplayed Brazil through regulation.

Marta, the best player in the world, scored early in the first overtime for a 2-1 Brazil lead.

But, the Americans kept pushing while Brazil kept up its gamesmanship - a dive here, a dive there, a fall here, a fall there and then Erika decided to double over, fall in front of the Brazil net and was taken off on a stretcher.

Yet, 10 seconds after the stretcher crossed the goal line, she jumped off and raced toward the bench and soon thereafter raced onto the field, only to be given a yellow card.

Her antics, along with those of her teammates, added three minutes onto stoppage time.

Two minutes into stoppage time, Abby Wambach, on a perfect, beautiful cross by Megan Rapione, buried a header into the near side for the 2-2 tie.

I am of the opinion that if Brazil would have just played soccer, up a player mind you for 55 minutes, it would have won the game.

Solo made a couple of brilliant saves while Brazil attacked.

But, Brazil spent too much time playing games and not enough time attacking.

And, because the Americans did nothing but attack, because they had to, the ball found the back of the net in the latest goal ever scored in women's World Cup play.

"There is something special about this group. That energy, that vibe," Solo said. "Even in overtime, you felt something was going to happen."

The resolve of the U.S. women is something for every team to witness.

There was no "woe is me" from any player.

Wambach was asked if she thought her squad was beaten.

"Not for one second," she said. "I kept saying, all it takes is one chance. I kept holding up one finger to the girls."

"Everything seemed to be on the safe side, but it wasn't," Brazil coach Kleiton Lima said. "Unfortunately there was the goal."

The goal.

It was the play that Brazil allowed the Americans to complete because Lima couldn't get his players to just play soccer.

I see it way too often in high school soccer.

Just keep your mouths shut and play the game.

Stay upright and be a good teammate.

Brazil couldn't do that.

The Americans did.

Play as hard as you can for as long as you can.

That's an attitude.

That's a choice.

Every team will go through adversity and must show resiliency.

It just comes in different forms for different teams.

While you are looking at the referee for a whistle, the ball is heading down the field while you are still on the ground whining.

That, also, is an attitude and a choice.

I understand when it's time to play defense, play possession and be cautious.

I get that.

Brazil didn't do that.

It had chance after chance after chance to apply pressure to the Americans, but chose not to do that.

It was garbage soccer that allowed the United States a chance to get to penalty kicks.

And, anyone want a goalie other than Solo between the pipes?

Not me.

Solo blocked Brazil's third attempt and the Americans went 5 for 5 on PKs for the magnificent victory.

"It is a special moment for me and for this team," Solo said.

There was a will and desire seen in one team, but not the other.

This was a match both sides can learn from - how to keep playing regardless of the situation.

"We're just fighting for each other out there," said U.S. captain Christie Rampone. "We were totally believing the whole time."

Rampone is the lone player left from the 1999 World Cup champs, which the Americans won 12 years ago to the day of Sunday's penalty-kick win.

It was the last time United States has won the World Cup.

The Americans now have another chance, thanks to heart, great teammates and their collective resiliency.

This is not to say heart and great teammates will always get you a win, but there is no reason why great heart and great teammates can't be integrated with every team.

It's an attitude and a choice.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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