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Alex Morgan's goal lifts United States to Olympic women's soccer final

United States' Megan Rapinoe, right, celebrates with teammate

United States' Megan Rapinoe, right, celebrates with teammate Alex Morgan as Tobin Heath slides in on her knees after scoring against Canada during their semifinal women's soccer match at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. (Aug. 6, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

MANCHESTER, England -- If they gave out awards for Olympic drama queens, the U.S. women's soccer team would get a gold medal.

It's not that the Americans are difficult to deal with, it's that they are hard to beat and make it an interesting show.

"I don't know why we want to make things so dramatic, but we do," Abby Wambach said.

In a game for the ages that had a little bit of everything and some surprising twists and turns, Team USA gutted out a 4-3 extra-time win over Canada in the semifinals Monday to send the Americans into the gold-medal match for the fifth consecutive time.

The U.S. team overcame three deficits, created by Christine Sinclair's hat trick, and was helped by two controversial calls that set up Wambach's equalizing penalty kick in the 80th minute at Old Trafford.

Minutes before extra time, Wambach gave her team a pep talk. "I know I've said this before," she said, "but it really does just take one moment and one chance, one moment of brilliance for somebody to do something individually spectacular."

That moment was accomplished by striker Alex Morgan, who headed home second-half sub Heather O'Reilly's cross in the third minute of stoppage time to boost the Americans to their fifth consecutive win. "I'm still in shock thinking of what just happened," Morgan said. "It was a crazy battle. It was amazing."

The victory left the Americans ecstatic, relieved and with a chance to capture their fourth gold medal in five tries -- against Japan at Wembley Stadium on Thursday.

Team USA lost to Japan in the World Cup final last year.

"We are unwilling to give up and that says a lot about who we are as a team," Wambach said. "Even when Canada scored their third goal, there was something in me that knew that we had more, that we could give more. This team has belief in itself, even when the going gets tough."

The loss left Canada devastated, angry and in the bronze-medal game against France. "We feel like we were robbed," goalkeeper Erin McLeod said.

McLeod was referring to events that led to the third U.S. goal. She had been called for holding the ball for more than six seconds by referee Christiana Pedersen (Norway), resulting in a U.S. indirect free kick.

McLeod said she had not been warned by the referee about holding the ball too long. She said Pedersen claimed she had the ball for 10 seconds. "She obviously counted the time when I was on the ground with the ball," she said.

Megan Rapinoe, who scored twice, blasted the ball into the defensive wall and off the arm of Marie-Eve Nault, resulting in a penalty. "[Pedersen] actually giggled and said nothing, Classy!" Sinclair said. "We feel cheated."

Wambach, who endured a frustrating game with several near misses, did not miss this time, converting her chance into the lower left corner, tying her with Sinclair for second place on the all-time scoring list with 143 goals apiece behind Mia Hamm (158).

The Canadians took the lead three times and the Americans equalized every time.

Sinclair struck first, beating Rachel Buehler and Kelley O'Hara in the 22nd minute, but Rapinoe retaliated with what is called an Olympic goal -- scoring directly off a corner kick in the 54th minute. Again Sinclair gave Canada the lead with a header in the 67th minute and again Rapinoe equalized, firing a 17-yard shot off the left post three minutes later. Sinclair got a hat trick with an 8-yard header in the 73rd minute.

But the U.S. team struck last. "It's a little trademark of our team," Rapinoe said. "We came back three times today and showed great heart."

New York Sports