Thank goodness ESPN supremos Jed Drake and John Skipper had the guts (and the massive checkbook) to hire Ian Darke and make him the lead soccer commentator at the network. Sometimes, the sounds are just as important as the sights when it comes to big soccer matches.
Twice in one year now, the Englishman Darke ... who's widely considered the best in the business after inheriting the mantle from countryman Martin Tyler ... has found himself serving as the voice of record for a seminal moment in U.S. soccer history.
Last summer, Darke's "Go, go, USA!" call defined the jubilant mood after Landon Donovan scored with his right foot after a mazy run in extra time against Alegeria to give the U.S. men a 1-0 victory over Algeria at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The win enabled the U.S. to win their group and head into the round of 16.
On Sunday, Darke's "Oh, can you believe this?" was the proper and memorable soundtrack after Abby Wambach scored on a header at the far post after a brilliant left-footed cross from Megan Rapinoe during extra time of a FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinal match against Brazil in Germany.
And, boy, was it ever tough to believe. Wambach's goal at nearly the final whistle gave the U.S. new life in the match, tying it at 2-2. Never mind the fact that the U.S. was playing with 10 players after Rachel Buehler was harshly sent off in the 65th minute ... it was just the latest talking point in a game that see-sawed back and forth throughout.
Start with an unlikely 1-0 lead for the U.S. after just 74 seconds when Brazil's Daiane somehow turned a U.S. cross into her own net. After that, the U.S. tried to build on the advantage, but despite some tough physical play from midfielders Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx, the team's erratic passing kept Brazil in the game.
And when you keep giving chances to a player as good as Brazil's Marta, she's eventually going to make you pay. Her movement put Buehler into a bad position in the box, but despite the penalty call by referee Jacqui Melksham it looked like Marta simulated the contact. She flung herself into the air, landing on top of Buehler.
But, that's when the controversy was just getting started. Brazil's Cristiane took the resulting penalty kick, which was beautifully saved by U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo. But, lineswoman Sarah Ho saw some sort of forward moment by Solo, which was not confirmed by TV replays. Marta took the re-kick, and Brazil was level at 1-1.
The U.S. actually moved the ball well playing with just 10, and Lloyd could have settled matters in regulation, but she hit the crossbar. That lack of finishing prowess came back to haunt the Americans when Marta scored a sweet goal in the first session of extra time, stabbing her foot at a ball that caught Solo off-guard and gave Brazil a 2-1 lead.
It looked like the U.S. would be making its earliest-ever exit from a World Cup until Rapinoe placed her perfect cross on Wambach's head. With the match knotted at 2-2, there was only going to be one winner. Solo made one save in the four shots she faced, and the Yanks' Ali Krieger calmly slotted home the winner ... earning herself a place in U.S. soccer lore.