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BEIJING 2008 : WOMEN'S SOCCER

Chance for new U.S. team to repeat history

August 19, 2008|Bill Plaschke | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING -- They are barely recognizable, with a style that is hardly understandable, yet the members of this new U.S. women's soccer team do share one thing with their famous ancestors.

They win Olympic games. They make Olympic finals.

With more fight than finesse, the U.S. team lumbered past Japan, 4-2, in the semifinals at Workers' Stadium on Monday night to reach the Olympic finals for the fourth time in four Olympics.

"I don't think many of us even knew that," said goalkeeper Hope Solo about the American streak. "We're trying to create our own history."

That will happen only if the U.S. can beat Brazil in Wednesday's final, a tough task considering the Brazilians overwhelmed defending world champion Germany, 4-1, in the other semifinal.

The game will carry the undercurrent of last year's World Cup semifinals, when Brazil beat the U.S. after Solo was strangely benched.

Solo complained about the benching and was immediately publicly ostracized by her teammates, banned from sitting on the bench or even traveling with the team.

Bygones have since become bygones, Solo is the star goalie, and, although she may never be best friends with her teammates again, she says it doesn't matter.

"I've never been the kind of player who has been that close to her teammates," Solo said. "You're as close as you need to be to get the job done."

Despite an injury to their only star, Abby Wambach, the Americans have been getting the job done, with three players scoring against Japan, led by Angela Hucles' two goals.

Japan led, 1-0, after an easy goal in the first 11 minutes, but then the U.S. team tightened up and scored four consecutive goals.

Three of the goals came from one-on-one moves followed by lengthy booming kicks, acts that might prove troublesome against the quicker Brazilians.

Where Brazil is fast, the U.S. is plodding. Where Brazil is inventive, the U.S. team relies on long passes and lots of those solo acts.

The American team clearly missed the retired core of stars led by Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain. It is clearly still searching for its identity.

"Brazil has a very talented team, but we are showing our talent too," countered U.S. midfielder Heather O'Reilly, who scored on a long shot that appeared to be a pass.

"You can't just stop one person. We don't have a big star, but we're all capable of being stars."

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bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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