USA vs. Japan: Why Carli Lloyd Was the Star of Olympic Soccer Gold Medal Match

John D. HalloranContributor IIAugust 9, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09:  Carli Lloyd #10 of United States scores a goal in the second half against Mizuho Sakaguchi #6 of Japan during the Women's Football gold medal match on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium on August 9, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In a game filled from start to finish with thrills, the USWNT outlasted Japan at Wembley Stadium 2-1 Thursday to claim Olympic Gold.

While many of the USWNT players had outstanding games, including a lights out effort by goalkeeper Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd’s effort deserves special recognition.

Prior to the tournament, Lloyd lost her starting position in the center of the U.S. midfield. In the games leading up to the tournament, USWNT head coach Pia Sundhage moved Lauren Cheney to center midfield to partner Shannon Boxx and Lloyd moved to the bench.

While many players might have pouted at having lost their starting position, Lloyd committed herself more than ever to improving herself, frequently tweeting about her workouts at the Universal Soccer Academy.

Once the Olympics began, Lloyd did not have to wait long for her chance to come off the bench as Shannon Boxx injured her hamstring only 17 minutes into the tournament. Lloyd was brought in and over the next sixteen days would log a leg-wobbling 463 minutes over six games.

To make Lloyd’s offensive effort in the Olympic final even more impressive, it came with just two days of rest after Lloyd put in a 120-minute double overtime effort against Canada on Monday.

Over the USWNT’s six games, despite filling Boxx’s largely defensive midfield role, Lloyd scored four goals, including two of the best strikes of the tournament.

Lloyd’s effort also followed a brutal head stamping incident which she suffered in the second half of the U.S.’ titanic battle with Canada only three days earlier. There were even some fans who feared that Lloyd might miss the gold medal match because she might have suffered a concussion from the play.

But despite all of Lloyd’s obstacles—losing her starting position, playing through heavy legs and getting her head stepped on—Lloyd stepped up to the plate Thursday to push her team back to the top of women’s soccer and the USWNT to another Olympic Gold medal.

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