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Monday, July 6, 2015

U.S. Women Dominate Japan 5-2 In Canada For Their Record 3rd World Cup Title Overall

Even the biggest U.S. honk would have to admit that in their wildest Budweiser-fueled drunken 4th of July dreams, they probably never imagined the 2015 Women's World Cup Final unfolding quite like it did on Sunday at Vancouver's BC Place. What most expected to be a tight match turned into a unbelievable blowout in the span of 16 minutes: Carli Lloyd scored the fastest hat trick in Women's World Cup history and first in a Final as the U.S. jumped out to a 4-0 lead and cruised to a 5-2 victory over shell-shocked Japan. With the win, the U.S. finally took home its third World Cup title (the most of any country) and their first since 1999.

Japan was completely exposed on set pieces as Lloyd scored her first two goals (in the 3rd and 5th minutes) by knocking in a short corner kick from Megan Rapinoe then also following up a loose ball in the box after Julie Johnston had headed a free kick into a dangerous spot by the Japanese goal. Just as a viewer, this all happened so fast that it was almost overwhelming so you can imagine how the Japanese (the defending World Cup champs) were feeling as the match was taken away from them so early. A poor header by one of Japan's defenders led to the third U.S. goal as Lauren Holiday was there to volley it in the 14th minute.

Lloyd's first goal was great and Holiday's was also memorable (her first of this tournament) but the signature moment of this one-sided Final that will be replayed for eternity was Lloyd's audacious chip from midfield that gave her the hat trick in the 16th minute (3rd ever for a U.S. woman at the World Cup). Only someone as super confident as her would dream of trying something so outrageous and while Japan's goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori was slightly out of position, it was a perfect hit by the U.S. captain who not surprisingly won the Golden Ball for the best player in the tournament (6 goals, 1 assist; goals in 4 straight matches).

It took way too long for them to get in gear but Japan showed for a few brief moments why they got here in the first place and figured to pose such a threat to the U.S. Yuki Ogimi cut it to 4-1 in the 28th minute after she was wide open in the box after an assist from Nahomi Kawasumi. Hope Solo (who won the Golden Glove for the best goalkeeper in the tournament) had no chance to stop the shot that went into the corner of the net.

To keep the audience watching (and I bet it was a record rating), the announcers had to pretend that Japan potentially could rally. Haha yeah OK guys. I will admit that it got just a little interesting in the 52nd minute when Johnston's header went past Solo for an own goal. However, two minutes later Tobin Heath put it away for good with her first career World Cup goal (beautifully assisted by Morgan Brian). Look out for those two in the next few World Cups, they are going to be leaders of the team in the near future.

Both Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone were substitutes late in the game, a nice touch by head coach Jill Ellis since both were playing in their final World Cup contest. About the only thing that didn't go perfectly for the U.S. was that Wambach didn't score a goal but we'll forgive her for that after all that she's done over the years in Red, White and Blue.

The cliche of getting better every game actually applied to this team as they saved their best performances for their toughest opponents: Germany and Japan. They had struggled so much to score for most of the month in Canada but then the floodgates opened today and Japan had absolutely no chance to stop it. I think that Fox Sports 1 and Fox did a very solid job of covering this tournament and hopefully the momentum that the sport has gained will continue with the NWSL (where most of these women play) and of course in future World Cups.

The Americans had been knocking on the door for so long and I'm thrilled for them knowing all the hard work that they've put in over the years. Most importantly, they created their own legacy and now they never have to be endlessly criticized for not being the 1999 squad. Nope, this moment sealed their legacy forever. PS while the 1999 team had the greatest impact, this edition had the toughest journey since the field had expanded to 24 teams for the first time and they came out of the hardest group so there.

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