Millions of American soccer fans were literally sitting on the edges of their collective seats this afternoon watching their women's team face off against a surprisingly difficult Canadian squad. The winner would go on to play for a gold medal. The loser, at best, might be able to win a bronze. Back and forth the game waged like the tide. First the Canadians scored, then the Americans, then Canadians...well, you get the picture. It was only fitting that this epic game not end in regulation time but with an overtime period. Fans deserved the chance to get to see as much of these two amazing teams square off against each other as possible. Even after another 30 minutes of overtime, the game was still undecided and it looked as though it would ultimately be won with penalty kicks. However, somehow the Americans found a way to get the ball in net one last time with roughly 30 seconds left in stoppage time after 120 minutes of play.
For many American fans, a game against Canada might have seemed like a walkover. However, the Canadians are not only under the (more than) capable hands of new coach John Herdman, but they also have on their team one of the most prolific goal scorers of all time in the women's game. Christine Sinclair had a hat trick (three goals) today during the game (all the scoring for Canada) while American goal scoring legend Abby Wambach had one. Ironically, that now puts them in a tie at 142 goals for second place all-time to Mia Hamm's 158 goals.
By no means did the Americans play bad. Many opportunities to score were had that just barely missed, especially early in the game. The ball was kept on the Canadian side for the better part of the first half before the Canadians began to settle down. The usually prolific scoring duo of Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach were largely held in check by a quick and stifling Canadian defense. It took the wily and spunky Megan Rapinoe to break into the scoring column not once but twice for her team to get things going. I'm not sure which goal was better; her corner kick in which she literally bent it into the near corner of the goal or the ricochet laser shot she made a little later. Rapinoe in the past has been known more for her setup passing abilities, but she's proven herself deadly with the ball on her own as of late.
The woman that I had been pulling for the entire match to break through, Alex Morgan, was having an enormously difficult time finding her spots. More often than not, she would get the ball ahead of others only to be forced to try and feed it inside when she was defended closely. I've felt all along that this American women's team would not win a medal without Morgan scoring. She adds a dangerous dimension to the game that few teams can counter. That was finally proved correct when her head connected with a crossing pass on what was probably the Americans final chance to score with just 30 seconds before penalty kicks would decide it. While I have faith in Hope Solo in penalty kick defense, no one in their right minds should want a game to come down to penalty kicks. That's how this same American team lost the World Cup final to Japan.
Nevertheless, when Morgan's head deflected the cross into the net over the head of the Canadian goalkeeper, my first immediate reaction was to burst into tears from the sheer release of joy of the moment. I love our women's team because of their never-say-die attitude. I've seen them come from behind in too many games to count them out, but I was afraid of this stout Canadian squad the entire game. My sobbing didn't stop for some time while I watched the celebrations as the game ended.
These women can lift me to the highest high that sports can offer, and they can cause me to descend into a depth of despair that seemingly never ends all in the span of a single game. It's a roller coaster ride that I both dread and can not help but be addicted. You can bet I'll be sitting on the edge of my seat again come this Thursday for their gold medal game against the tough Japanese. No matter what happens, girls, you can't fail me. Go win this one for yourselves.
Julie is a featured contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network and has been an avid follower of the women's national soccer team for close to a decade.