Disgraceful yes, but some perspective please
Were we ripped off yesterday in the Women's Soccer Semi-Final? Rhetorical question, I know, of course we were. But, before we burn the ref in effigy, let's remember a few things.
One, there is a rule that says the goalie must play the ball within six seconds. Did our goalkeeper, Erin McLeod, exceed the amount of time? Yes, she did. Does the rule rarely get called? It does get called only on a very rare occasion. But, it's still a rule. And there are no warnings. She violated it and got called. She should have known better.
Two, is it a hand ball violation when it hits your upper arm as you turn away from the shot in the eighteen yard box. Again, it can be. It clearly hit Nault's arm. Not always is it called, bjut this time it was. Of course, making us apoplectic is the fact it came off the previously mentioned free kick. Two suspect calls in a row, but both are rules violations. The referee did not make up the rules on the spot. All experts agree that she followed the rules to the letter of how they were written, but perhaps not in spirit.
McLeod did not have a good game. The first goal should have never gone in. The third goal is her complete lack of judgment. But Canada had a one-goal lead three times in this match and failed to hold it all three times. The last time they needed to keep the U.S. off the scoresheet for just the last eighteen minutes. The double-foul debacle happened after ten. They stepped off the gas repeatedly in the second half. The Americans are ranked number one in the world for a reason, while we are not. They know how to finish games and compete to the very end. We looked a little panicky while we had the lead, yet composed when we were tied.
Last year, it was the Americans who learned the hard way about competing until the very end. They lost to Japan in the World Cup Final by a shootout after seeming to control most of the game. They gave up both a tying goal with nine minutes to play in regulation time and then again with just three minutes to play in extra time. The U.S. snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. But, our own performance in that World Cup was abysmal. We lost to home side Germans in the opening game, got embarrased by France in the next, and were even dropped by the lowly Nigerians in the third. We scored one goal in total. The same team that scored two per game in this Olympics, scored just one in a major tourney just last year. Even though we had the best player in the world in Christine Sinclair, we only scored once. It was a disgrace.
What's happened in the last twelve months has been a complete revamping of our Women's team. But, it's not in the players ranks. It's been at the coaching level. Carolina Morace was the Italian coach who was responsible for the World Cup disaster. She rightly resigned and was replaced in September by John Herdman. A team who's psyche was destroyed and heart was questioned in 2011, rebounded with essentially the same line-up and asserted itself at the top of the soccer world. Herdman completely rebuilt what was devastated by the previous regime and did it in less than year. It bodes well for us hosting the World Cup in just three years time.
We lost on some shady refereeing but we also have to accept some of the blame for losing our nerve against the number one ranked team in the world. Our team showed it can compete against the best and now should consider themselves at the top as well. We have the world's best player, a terrific coach who draws out the best in the lineup, and we played in one of the best games you will ever see. Let's try to remember that and not just the bad job by the officials.