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U.S. women's loss to Japan in World Cup final was disgraceful

T.J. SIMERS

Players shouldn't get off easy for laying one of the all-time biggest eggs in sports.

July 18, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • U.S. players and coaches look on as Japan celebrates its Women's World Cup title on Sunday.
U.S. players and coaches look on as Japan celebrates its Women's World… (Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters )

In all my years watching futbol, I have never seen a side on the pitch gag as much as the U.S. gals.

Talk about just dribbling it away.

Come on, where does President Obama get off tweeting: "Couldn't be prouder of the women of #USWNT after a hard-fought game"?

So the big guy wouldn't have been prouder had they won?

This was the mighty Soviet hockey team losing in Lake Placid to a bunch of kids and then fearing the next stop might be Siberia.

How come the president didn't remind the U.S. before its game with Japan they might be spending August in Nebraska if not successful.

As mismatches go, this was Oregon versus USC.

The Mavericks against the Lakers.

Some of us were undoubtedly expecting a clean sheet from Hope Solo, and I'm sure my fellow futbol fans understand what I'm talking about.

The powerhouse U.S. hadn't lost to Japan in 25 games, had a 1-0 lead with nine minutes to play, a 2-1 advantage with three minutes left in overtime and just flat out folded.

And the president couldn't be prouder of these losers?

A 1-0 U.S.-Japan soccer game is like watching a baseball game with the Dodgers trailing, 1-0. Everyone understands there's no way to overcome such a deficit.

I was so confident when the U.S. went ahead that had I been told Rick Neuheisel was coaching the U.S., I still wouldn't have been concerned.

Maybe a lucky nutmeg through Solo pulls Japan even, but when the U.S. went up, 2-1, near the end of the game, it technically wasn't a golden goal, but just as good. Beckham understands what I'm talking about.

Credited for their resiliency after beating Brazil, the Americans seemed insistent on establishing their legacy as chokers in allowing Japan back into the game.

As Hollywood scripts go, the U.S. still had the chance to make everyone's day and duplicate its 1999 World Cup dramatic win on penalty kicks.

No one is talking today about blowing it if the U.S. players are running around the field in celebration after winning on penalty kicks.

But instead, somewhere in Japan today a broadcaster is now forever famous for screaming: "Holy Al Michaels."

Just think of the endorsement deals waiting for the U.S., the invites from Leno, Letterman and "The Bachelor" and the little girls about to be born and named Hope.

Just think about all those warm, fuzzy and fictional columns that were going to be written about the advances in women's sports and growth in soccer popularity in the afterglow of a thrilling U.S. win.

Just think about how quickly everyone will forget these duds unless someone mentions Greg Norman and other great choke artists of our time.

In the days leading up to the final game, the U.S. players talked in radio interviews about their never-quit attitude and other attributes that made them a great team.

"There is something special about this group," Solo was saying after beating Brazil, a sentiment echoed by Abby Wambach.

"That is the perfect example of what this country is all about," she said. "We never gave up."

I'm guessing someone who plays for Japan was saying the same thing after actually winning the World Cup.

There is no way you can feel sorry for this bunch. They talked about preparing themselves for this moment, never dreaming they'd get an opponent who didn't have a chance against them. And they still weren't up for it.

The U.S. hockey team beat the Soviet Union and everyone gushed and then the hockey team went out and finished the job with a win over Finland.

No one around here, though, seemed interested in waiting for the U.S. women's soccer team to prove itself more than a shooting star. Who didn't go overboard? Some were suggesting no men's team could do what these women were doing given their unselfish, tough and tireless play for one another.

I couldn't agree more — hard to fathom a U.S. men's team collapsing in such a manner.

As for hanging tough together, which teams seem to do when they win, anyone watching TV couldn't help but notice Solo leaving her teammates behind in defeat to share her emotions with some folks in the stands.

If there is anything memorable now about this U.S. women's soccer team, it's how it melted in the glare of the big moment. Their role model, I presume, is Phil Mickelson.

They just gave it away, and to make excuses or diminish the magnitude of such a collapse is to treat the U.S. gals like women instead of world-class athletes.

I would imagine that's how most would want to be viewed in victory, so no reason to offer a free pass in defeat and go all gushy.

I say treat the gals like athletes and make sure they understand if they choke again, it's off to Nebraska for the whole lot.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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