May 27, 2012; Chester, PA, USA; USA forward Abby Wambach (20) celebrates her goal with teammates midfielder Lauren Cheyney (12), midfielder Megan Rapinoe (15) and forward Sydney Leroux (11) against China goalkeeper Zhang Yanru (1) during the second half of match at PPL Park. USA defeated China, 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
LONDON - Somewhere out there in the United Kingdom, the USA women's soccer team has been an Olympic rumor. Too distant to notice, between the 200-meter butterfly and the gymnastics all-around.
The Yankees are coming. Finally. After Twitter rants, dirty play charges and a scintillating and testy overtime semifinal win over Canada on Monday night, they get to come to London. The 2012 Games finally will see one of its better team stories.
They have been a compelling saga, but who knew?
When the Americans won their opener against France and goalie Hope Solo then went bananas with her tweeting fingers criticizing television commentator Brandi Chastain, they were nearly 500 miles away in Scotland.
When they beat New Zealand to finish their pool play unbeaten, they were 345 miles away in Newcastle.
When Canada coach John Herdman wagged a verbal finger at them and called some of their tactics "highly illegal" - or maybe he's a graduate from the University of Phil Jackson and was working the officials - they were 200 miles away in Manchester.
Yes, this was the Olympic soccer tournament, not the torch relay.
The U.S. team was still in Manchester Monday night for the semifinal and a rollicking battle that went to the last shreds of overtime, before Alex Morgan's header beat the Canadians, broke their hearts and probably royally ticked them off.
I was watching on television from the weightlifting venue in London, a riverfront site which used to be a working dock specializing in tobacco and South American beef. It was one of those Olympic moments where you go from 230-pound muscle men lifting iron to ladies lining up for a penalty kick - and I can report the BBC announcers were amazed at the ferocity of the game.
Canada will no doubt be hot enough to microwave popcorn over a couple of the calls. And there was room to feel cheated by fate, losing a game in which the other team led only 30 seconds of added-on injury time. A team the Canadians have not beaten the last 27 tries, going back to 2001.
The post-game comments soon started rolling in over the Olympics system.
"I'm still in shock, thinking of what just happened," Morgan said.
"Two bizarre decisions," Herdman said.
So this USA soccer story is the whole package. Controversy. Goofiness. Intrigue. Emotion. A slick escape with a buzzer-beater to win on the grass at Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United and opened in 1910.
And now there is the whiz-bang conclusion, the gold medal game with Japan - the team that ruined the Americans' World Cup plans in a shootout last summer.
Isn't it time for this Olympics to, like, see this saga in person?
It is. They'll be at Wembley Stadium on Thursday night, the first time you didn't need a UK map to know where they were.
"It's exactly what we hoped for after that World Cup loss," Abby Wambach told reporters up in Manchester.
It's a plot good enough to finally take its turn in the London spotlight.
Wait. Across London at Olympic Park that night, Usain Bolt will be going for the 100-200 double. They'll have to give him center stage. But at least they're still not in Glasgow.
Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY