When all is said and done that one definitely hurt like a punch in the gut Sunday, and it's the second major tournament in a few weeks where a United States national team conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

First it was the U.S. men throwing away a 2-0 lead against Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, then the U.S. women surrendered two leads before losing to Japan 2-2, 3-1 on penalties in the FIFA World Cup decider.

But the two games were very different. Although the men had that two-goal margin, over the 90 minutes Mexico were the better team. But against Japan, the U.S. dictated the possession and created the better chances.

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Yet Japan hung tough and took advantage of some critical miscommunication along the U.S. backline to tie the match at 1-1 and send it to extra time. Seriously, it was Keystone Kops-type defending from the U.S.

But when you take an objective look at the run the U.S. made in this tournament, truth be told, they may have been punching above their weight. Maybe a place in the final was indeed a bonus.

In relatively recent months (including during this Cup), the U.S. has lost to Mexico, England, Sweden and Japan and has been taken to penalties by Brazil. Even in the semifinal win over France, the U.S. was on the back foot.

What used to be a huge chasm between the U.S. and the rest of the world is now a tiny keyhole, and we may be on the outside looking in. Title IX gave the U.S. women a 20-plus-year start on the rest of the world, but others have caught up.

The good thing is that the London Olympics are right around the corner, so the U.S. gets another chance to win a major competition. But there's no denying some of the previous untouchables .... Carli Lloyd for instance, who had a poor tournament ... may soon find themselves replaced.

There were some definite breakout stars for the U.S. ... Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, for sure .... but the longterm future is based on finding women who can pass and receive the ball well without panicking under pressure.

That technical know-how is holding the men's team back on the biggest stages, and the women have suffered from the same technique. Grit and hard work are an essential part of the game, but sometimes they're just not enough. We keep finding that out to our chagrin.







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