The women's soccer semifinal match between the United States and Canada ruled. Between the seven goals scored in the most dramatically back-and-forth manner possible and the immense likability of the victorious American team, you couldn't have asked for a better game. Alex Morgan's 123rd-minute goal might be the Olympics' most exciting moment yet.
Of course, there were complications. Each team might have gotten away with something they shouldn't have. The Canadians think the calls against their team were more wrong and more consequential, but as in the War of 1812, they are in the wrong. ("Those who do not remember the War of 1812 are doomed to repeat it," as the saying goes.)
CANADA'S ARGUMENT: Neither Erin McLeod's delay-of-game penalty nor the subsequent handball were the right calls.
(This is the handball. Abby Wambach converted the penalty kick.)
Canada led 3-2 at the time McLeod was called for holding on to the ball longer than six seconds, which came right around the 75th minute. The delay-of-game call on McLeod is one that you basically never see at the upper levels of soccer — I don't think I've ever seen it in an international or professional game &mdash. As for the handball, the argument against it is that Canadian defender Marie-Eve Nault was already planted in the ball's path, making the contact either incidental or defensive.
The combination of both of these decisions within minutes of each other had a multiplying effect. Newspapers in Canada cried foul (just kidding — there's only one newspaper in Canada, and it's called the Tim Horton's Gazette) saying the team was robbed; meanwhile, the players suggested the game was rigged in favor of the Americans.
THE UNITED STATES' ARGUMENT: Melissa Tancredi stomped on Carli Lloyd's head.
This one came twenty minutes before the handball, when the game was tied 1-1. Watching the replay, you can see Tancredi plant both feet in front of Lloyd's body, then hop, landing her right foot just wide and her left foot on Lloyd's head. She then pushes off with her left foot.
Sometimes, players do stupid things because they aren't paying attention, or because they're lost in the throes of the game. But those things are still stupid. Tancredi unquestionably stepped on Lloyd's head, and she should've received a red card — it's not even a discussion. If Canada had to play a woman down from 55 minutes on, their chances of winning the match would have been slim.
VERDICT: The U.S. women should have won.
I mean, they did, so this is in many ways a moot point. But Tancredi's stomp unequivocally deserved a red card. And, because it took place first, the stomp takes precedence in our imaginary counterhistorical game — obviously, a 10-woman Canadian squad would've changed the entire flow of the game, and so the subsequent situation becomes purely hypothetical. In the case of Canada's complaints, the call on McLeod was weird, no matter whether it was right or wrong; that, though, wouldn't have led to a goal were it not for the handball ruling, and that was clearly justified: watching the play, you can see Marie-Eve Nault lift her arm into the path of the ball, and it appears to strike her on the forearm.
However, the single biggest missed call in the match came when Tancredi put her cleat into Carli Lloyd's head and got away without even a foul. Throughout the game, the ref allowed Canada to play physical, aggressive soccer against the U.S., with Tancredi in particular functioning more like a hockey player than anything else; anyone who suggests that the officiating favored the U.S. was watching a different game than me. (Or didn't watch at all.)
The U.S. women will play Japan in the gold-medal match on Thursday, and hopefully Japan will be less complain-y.