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Women's national team provides 'Game of Year'

By Sam Ellison
On May 2, 2012



When I think about what sporting event qualifies itself for the category of Game of the Year, there are some defining prerequisites. As a fan, you must literally be at the edge of your seat, sweating nearly as much as the athletes competing. You must be yelling profanities and whispering, "Come on, come on, come on," at the TV screen. You must go out of your way to watch this game and put everything else aside. You must refuse any and all trips to the bathroom until the game has ended. And, most of all, it must have an enticingly climatic finish. 

So, I pondered to myself,when was the last time I hopped on such an emotional rollercoaster?  Was it Indiana vs. Kentucky back in the beginning of the NCAA basketball season? It certainly made my heart drop for a minute as they knocked off the eventual national champions in buzzer-beater fashion. Nope, not good enough.

I started zooming through all of the SportsCenter Top 10 highlights thinking about all of the crazy moments that sports bestowed upon us this past year. 

I thought of the championship games, the monster comebacks, the underdog stories and anything that made me literally leap out of my seat, spill the chips and salsa on the floor and scream at the top of my lungs.

And then it came to me-the 2011 women's World Cup in Germany, where the U.S. women's national soccer team put on nothing short of a spectacle.

That type of excitement cannot be found anywhere else as the women's team put U.S. soccer back on the map and even surpassed the excitement of the men's World Cup the previous year where there were quite a few of those same unforgettable moments.  To me, when the women can get the guys not only to watch, but to be glued to the TV, that is an achievement.

Rallying around the herculean performances of Abby Wambach, the aged veteran of the women's team, and Hope Solo, who is, for lack of a better word, a beast between the pipes, the women made it all the way to the final against Japan. Yet, despite the team's loss, that game was not the best game for me. The best game of the year was U.S. vs. Brazil. 

Now, watching soccer for Americans is kind of like eating free food at a meeting: if it's good, you'll keep coming back for more, and if it's bad, well, you get the point. We Americans hold basketball, football,  baseball and hockey above the global phenomenon of soccer. But once the World Cup comes around, we hop on the bandwagon.

Nonetheless, the stage was set in Dresden, Germany, as the U.S. looked to advance past the quarterfinals against the powerhouse Brazilian team. After going ahead 1-0, the Brazilians took a 2-1 lead with a controversial goal in which an offside call was blown. 

The team and the country was on the edge of their seats, waiting for a change, waiting for a miracle-waiting for anything. I can vividly recall the sweat on my palms and the angst deep inside me, yearning for a victory that seemed to be impossible.  

But, the next moment fully encompassed the beauty of sports. No matter what sport you watch, no matter where you are, when a team comes back with the odds stacked against them, when all seems to be lost, it is appreciated by all.

After Marta, Brazil's best player, scored in the 92nd minute, the 120th minute had finally come. The U.S. had missed a few opportunities to score again. Megan Rapinoe was dribbling down the sideline in the 122nd minute. 

She unleashed a gorgeous cross into the box to an anxious Wambach, who drilled in a header from point-blank range. 

In turn, the large bowl of chips I had been snacking on crashed to the floor, and I didn't care one bit because there was hope-penalty kicks were awaiting to crown a winner. 

The U.S. won the penalty kicks 5-3, including a ridiculous save by Solo (as more chips and profanities were let loose) and Ali Krieger put the nail in the coffin and solidified the team's place in the history books. 

I jumped for joy, raised my cat in the air like Simba in "The Lion King" and sat in disbelief. And I can confidently say that this game, and only this game, between U.S. and Brazil, had that effect on me. Just when you think it's over, something unbelievable happens, and I could not be more proud to see a group of ladies get it done in such dramatic fashion.  No, they did not take home the World Cup, but they sure provided us, the fans, with a heck of a game and a heck of a memory.

Congrats, ladies. I bestow you, the 2011 U.S. women's World Cup team, with the honor of playing in the Game of the Year.




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