July 5, 2015
By Michael Lewis
ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Lloyd's hat-trick powers USA women to their third world championship a 5-2 win over Japan
VANCOUVER -- Brilliant, simply brilliant.
|Carli Lloyd had a performance for the ages on Sunday, connecting for a hat-trick in the opening 16 minutes.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
There was no other way to describe the United States' 5-2 victory over Japan in the Women's World Cup final on Sunday.
Ditto and then some for midfielder Carli Lloyd.
With Lloyd leading the charge with a superlative performance behind a 13-minute hat-trick in the opening half, the Americans earned their third world championship and first since 1999.
By the time Lloyd had secured her three goals, the USA enjoyed a 4-0 lead against the defending champions, who had allowed only three goals in their previous six games.
Lloyd's six goals tied her with Germany's Celia Saskic for the tournament goal-scoring lead with six apiece.
The Americans also became the first team to win three world titles, having done so in 1991 and 1999 as they broke a 16-year drought.
The game might have been played in a foreign country, but it definitely had the feel of a home match as the domed stadium reverberated with the chant, "USA! USA! throughout the game from the partisan crowd of 53,341 at B.C. Place. Vancouver is only 24 miles from the U.S. border and a three-hour car ride from Seattle, the closest major city.
The match was over before it actually got started as Lloyd struck for not one, but two goals in the opening five minutes to stun the Asian side.
First, she converted a Megan Rapinoe free kick through traffic from eight yards in the third minute, flicking the ball past goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori for a 1-0 lead.
Barely two minutes later, the Delran, N.J. native and her teammates were celebrating yet again. This time Lauren Holiday sent in a free kick from the right side that Julie Johnston got a foot on. Lloyd found some room between defenders Azusa Iwashimzu and Saki Kumagai from point-blank range and deposited the ball into the net for a stunning two-goal advantage.
The Americans were far from finished. Lauren Holiday interrupted Lloyd's brilliant performance with a goal of her own, her first of the competition, thanks to a defensive blunder. Tobin Heath sent a long ball from the right side into the middle that Iwashimzu misplayed. Holiday took advantage of the error and drilled a nine-yard shot for a 3-0 lead in the 14th minute.
Showing off her skill and vision, Lloyd completed her hat-trick in spectacular fashion. Taking a pass from Holiday at midfield, Lloyd noticed that Kaihori was standing too far out of the net and audaciously booted a long shot from 55 yards that the goalkeeper got her right hand on. The ball bounced one and off the left post and into the lower left corner for a 4-0 margin in the 16th minute.
Coach Norio Sasaki had seen enough and decided to make two substitutions by the 39th minute, including replacing the beleaguered Iwashimizu with the legendary midfielder Homare Sawa three minutes prior.
Japan, scrambling to make the score respectable, got one back in the 27th minute when Yuki Ogimi ripped a shot from the top of the penalty area past Hope Solo. The goal snapped the Americans' shutout streak at 540 minutes, tying it with Germany for the longest shutout streak in World Cup history.
The Japanese continued to push up in the second half. A 40-yard ball from the left side was sent into the penalty area and USA center back Julie Johnston jumped up to clear, but instead headed it into her own goal as the Americans' lead was cut to 4-2 in the 52nd minute.
The three-goal margin, however, was restored only two minutes later when Heath slotted home a short pass from Brian Morgan from the right side from six yards for a 5-2 scoreline.
Abby Wambach, who has been longing for a world championship since 2003, came on as a substitute, replacing Heath in the 79th minute.
Christie Rampone, playing in her fifth and final World Cup, took over for Alex Morgan in the 86th minute.