Our 2012 stories of the year: Redemption at Wembley for U.S. Women

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We should have known it was going to be Carli Lloyd. Were we given a notepad and a full bottle, locked in a room, and asked to come up with the most likely hero for the gold medal match, we’d eventually stumble from a prison of crumpled paper and dehydration with the Jersey girl’s name in hand. Of course, Lloyd would be the person to step up in London.

Four years earlier, her extra time goal against Brazil won gold in Beijing. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, Lloyd temporarily lost her spot in Pia Sundhage’s starting XI only to return in time to be stepped on by Canada’s Melissa Tancredi in the semifinals. On a team looking to redeem itself after a loss in the previous year’s World Cup final, Lloyd’s own mini-comeback made her the U.S. Women’s National Team’s quintessential player ahead of a major final at one of the most famous venues on Earth.

On Aug. 9, 2012, Wembley Stadium presented Lloyd and the U.S. with their chance for revenge. Japan, the team that upset them at the World Cup, had also navigated the field, giving the Nadeshiko a chance to become the first team to pull off a World Cup-Olympic double. If the U.S. were going to be redeemed, they’d have to win a grudge match for the right to be called the best team in the world.

source: Getty ImagesBut in a game that would feature World Cup Golden Ball-winning Homare Sawa, the skill of Aya Miyama, the imposing play of Abby Wambach and the juggernaut that is Alex Morgan, Lloyd set in a stone her reputation for transcending expectations when results matter most. In the game’s ninth minute, Lloyd surged from midfield, though the Japanese area and onto a Morgan cross, bending at the waist as she ran onto another goal medal match goal. Just after halftime, the 30-year-old took matters onto her own feet, carrying a ball from near the center line to the edge of Japan’s area before burying an unstoppable shot into the left side netting. The U.S. would go onto win 2-1 in front of the largest crowd to ever witness a women’s Olympic event (80,203).

MORE: Steve Davis’s favorite story of 2012

Come Aug. 10, there was little doubt who’d claimed the title of world’s best. The U.S. had finished 6-0-0 in a tournament where each of their main rivals had stumbled at least twice, their +10 goal difference six better than the competition’s next-best total. Along the way, they’d continued to show their flair for the dramatic (an improbable and lucky semifinal comeback against Canada) as well as their ability to meet the challenges of a changing international landscape (with wins over France and Japan).

And the team was also redeemed. Harshly judged by many as having blown their chance at a world title in Germany, the U.S. women claimed their third-straight Olympic gold. Perhaps as important, the team maintained their unique place as a crossover success, one of the few points on the U.S. soccer map that not only transcends into mainstream sport but also into mainstream culture.

And thanks to their success, a few more people will have jobs, a few more kids will have heroes, and anybody who followed U.S. soccer will have reason to remember 2012.

Pep on Man City win, Sterling’s poor panenka, Mourinho sacking

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Pep Guardiola‘s Manchester City needed penalties to outlast hosts Leicester City in the quarterfinals of the League Cup, but got the job done thanks in no small part to some laughable efforts from the Foxes.

[ RECAP: Leicester 1-1 (1-3 pens) Man City ]

Kevin De Bruyne and Marc Albrighton scored good-looking goals in regulation, and Oleksandr Zinchenko converted City’s third penalty after Leicester missed three-consecutive offerings at the King Power Stadium.

Man City’s only miss was an awful missed panenka from Raheem Sterling, but Guardiola was mostly okay with the outcome given their lineup.

Eric Garcia started and made his first team debut at age 17. Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz also started the match. Young goalkeeper Arijanet Muric starred for Man City, stopping two penalties in the win. From the BBC:

“A tough game, it is always difficult at Leicester. We played with a guy who is 17 years old and some injured players, it was a good game. … Raheem took that decision [to chip his penalty], unfortunately he missed it but that is OK.”

Guardiola was also asked about fired Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho. He feels compassion for his longtime rival.

“I am always sad for the manager when that happens. We are alone in that situation. I am close to all of the managers. You are sacked when results are not good. He doesn’t need me, he is so strong. I wish him all the best and he will be back soon.”

Man City is one win from a third League Cup final in four years, and will face either Burton Albion, Arsenal, Spurs, Bournemouth, or Chelsea. Next up is a visit from Crystal Palace on Saturday and another trip to Leicester on Boxing Day.

League Cup: Man City wins in PKs; Burton upsets Boro

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It took penalty kicks to separate Leicester City and Man City, while Middlesbrough was booed off the pitch after 90 minutes of an upset loss as the first two quarterfinals of the League Cup were played Tuesday in England.

[ MORE: Steffen wins USMNT award ]


Leicester City 1-1 (1-3, PKs) Man City

A bungling batch of penalties ended an entertaining quarterfinal at King Power Stadium, and the reigning champions are alive for their third League Cup in four years.

Christian Fuchs airmailed Leicester City’s second attempt of penalty kicks, but Raheem Sterling chipped his ensuing panenka over the bar for Man City.

It was three-straight misses when Man City’s Arijanet Muric saved James Maddison‘s tame low effort and then nabbed Caglar Soyuncu’s shot to cue up Oleksandar Zinchenko for the winner.

Before that, we learned that Kevin De Bruyne can ball.

Okay, that’s not news, though we haven’t been able to see it in sometime thanks to a pair of knee injuries.

De Bruyne had played just 251 minutes heading into Tuesday’s League Cup quarterfinal at Leicester City, though he’s looking plenty sharp.

Watch the Manchester City midfielder cut his mark with a clever back leg move, then sweep a shot through a defender’s legs and past the reach of Leicester backstop Danny Ward.

It’s delightful stuff. Watch it here.

No sooner had De Bruyne left the contest after 70 minutes, Leicester City restored the stalemate via Marc Albrighton. The veteran midfielder collected a Wilfred Ndidi over-the-top pass with style before lashing past Arijanet Muric.

Middlesbrough 0-1 Burton Albion

There goes Tony Pulis‘ Boro outfit thanks to a strike from Southampton loanee Jake Hesketh, as Burton Albion trumped the ol’ West Bromwich Albion coach at his own game.

The League One side is the only non-Premier League team left in the tournament, and will now face either Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, or Bournemouth in the semifinals.

Bundesliga wrap: Fortuna Dusseldorf wonder goal ends BVB’s unbeaten season

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Borussia Dortmund’s unbeaten league season is over, stopped at the hands of an unlikely conqueror.

Fortuna Dusseldorf scored twice in the first hour to take advantage of the super sleepy leaders, who could only manage a late Paco Alcacer goal at the Espirit Arena.

[ MORE: Steffen wins USMNT award ]

USMNT winger Christian Pulisic went 90 minutes for BVB, setting up a goal that was called back for offside and also earning a yellow card.

Both of the hosts’ goals were fantastic in the 2-1 win, the first a long dribble from young Belgian wizard Dodi Lukembakio and the second this hammer of Thor from defender Jean Zimmer.

Elsewhere
Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0 Nurnberg
Hertha Berlin 2-2 Augsburg
Wolfsburg 2-0 Stuttgart

Wednesday
Schalke vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Werder Bremen vs. Hoffenheim
Freiburg vs. Hannover 96
Bayern Munich vs. RB Leipzig
Mainz vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 16 12 3 1 42 17 25 7-1-0 5-2-1 39
 Mönchengladbach 16 10 3 3 35 16 19 8-0-0 2-3-3 33
 Bayern Munich 15 9 3 3 32 18 14 3-3-1 6-0-2 30
 RB Leipzig 15 8 4 3 28 14 14 6-2-0 2-2-3 28
 Eintracht Frankfurt 15 8 2 5 32 18 14 4-1-2 4-1-3 26
 VfL Wolfsburg 16 7 4 5 24 20 4 3-3-3 4-1-2 25
 Hertha BSC Berlin 16 6 6 4 25 24 1 4-3-1 2-3-3 24
 1899 Hoffenheim 15 6 5 4 30 21 9 3-3-2 3-2-2 23
 Werder Bremen 15 6 3 6 25 25 0 3-2-3 3-1-3 21
 FSV Mainz 05 15 5 4 6 14 19 -5 3-3-2 2-1-4 19
 Bayer Leverkusen 15 5 3 7 21 27 -6 3-1-3 2-2-4 18
 SC Freiburg 15 4 5 6 19 24 -5 3-3-2 1-2-4 17
 FC Augsburg 16 3 6 7 23 26 -3 1-4-2 2-2-5 15
 FC Schalke 04 15 4 3 8 16 21 -5 3-0-4 1-3-4 15
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 16 4 3 9 18 33 -15 4-0-5 0-3-4 15
 VfB Stuttgart 16 4 2 10 11 32 -21 3-1-3 1-1-7 14
 1. FC Nürnberg 16 2 5 9 14 37 -23 2-3-3 0-2-6 11
 Hannover 96 15 2 4 9 16 33 -17 2-1-4 0-3-5 10

Men in Blazers podcast: Emergency edition (Mourinho’s sacked!)

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If Men in Blazers aren’t scheduled for a podcast and a major event happens, you can bet at least one of them will race for the microphone.

Emergency Jose Mourinho Pod in which Rog talks the end of the Portuguese’s reign at Manchester United.

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