When Christine Sinclair scored in the 22nd minute, it wasn't anything new. This was one of the best strikers in the world, doing the thing she does best. That it put the United Sttes behind a goal was nothing new either. A week and a half prior, the Americans had gone down by two against France, before the game had even reached the 15-minute mark. That one, the opener of the 2012 Olympics, ended with the U.S. scoring four unanswered goals to secure the win.
Playing with their backs against the wall was something the U.S. had, for better or for worse, become quite adept at. There was the epic World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil, the equally enthralling final against Japan.
Now, a year later, the U.S. was down again. It was the Olympic semifinal, a trip to the gold medal match on the line, with the U.S. facing their CONCACAF rivals. Canada would carry the lead into halftime, but on the other side of the break Megan Rapinoe tallied the equalizer. Rapinoe's 54th minute goal would trigger a wild goalscoring seesaw that continued until penalty kicks seemed like a sure thing.
Sinclair scored in the 67th, Rapinoe answered again in the 70th, Sinclair answered back again three minutes later to complete the hat trick and give Canada the lead with 17 minutes to play. Then Abby Wambach - in a bit of gamesmanship, brilliant or obnoxious depending on whether you like your red and white striped or chevroned - pointed out to referee Christina Pedersen that Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod was holding the ball for too long. Pedersen awarded the U.S. a free kick inside the 18. Carli Lloyd - in a bit of brilliant strategy or general Carli Lloydness, depending on your feelings on Carli Lloyd - sent the kick directly in to the Canada wall. Pedersen signaled for a handball, Wambach put away the PK, and suddenly the U.S. was level, again.
And that is how things would stay, all the way until the third minute of stoppage time in extra time. Heather O'Reilly collected a ball out wide and sent a cross in that Alex Morgan was able to head into the back of the net to give the U.S. the win.
Canada would defeat France in the third place match, celebrating, but settling too, for bronze. The U.S. meanwhile, defeated Japan to claim gold.
The Canadians were never happy about the way things turned out that night at Old Trafford. Sinclair even earned a suspension from FIFA for comments made after the match. And for ten months, our northern neighbors have seethed, and waited. Since then, those Canadians and Americans have become teammates in NWSL. Sinclair and Morgan play together in Portland. Sophie Schmidt and Christie Rampone are teammates in New Jersey. But on Sunday, that won't matter.
Tomorrow afternoon, the U.S. and Canada will meet for the first time since that semifinal last August. The game, at BMO Field in Toronto, sold out within hours of tickets going on sale. Canada Soccer has been billing the game as "The Rematch" - it's even half of the federation's website background. But will "The Rematch" live up to the hype?
The short answer, probably not. Players from both sides have only been with their respective national teams for a week, and are mostly coming off NWSL schedules with varying degrees of grueling-ness. The U.S. will be missing a considerable chunk of the team that appeared in London, with Hope Solo, Shannon Boxx, Amy Rodriguez, Amy LePeilbet and Megan Rapinoe all absent due to injury/pregnancy/club commitments. Pia Sundhage is also gone, replaced by Tom Sermanni, which adds a curious coaching rivalry (Sermanni is the former coach of Australia, Canada head coach John Herdman was previously with New Zealand), but also takes some of the history away.
And then there's Sermanni. While the new coach still hasn't faced much in the way of meaningful games, he's also shown he's not one to get too hung up on all that sentimental history stuff - he is into using friendlies to give younger players a look, something his 21 player roster bears out. While there are plenty of familiar faces, there's also some less familiar ones and Sermanni will likely use at least a few of his six subs to get those players some minutes.
The atmosphere at BMO will no doubt have the feeling of big game, but for eleven of the players on the field, ultimately, "The Rematch" will be just another friendly, and if you've ever watched the USWNT play a friendly, well, let's just say they tend to save the epic stuff for when it actually matters.