London, England – Carli Lloyd still has the golden touch.
Lloyd scored twice in the gold medal game of women's Olympic soccer at Wembley Stadium on Thursday as the United States avenged its 2011 World Cup final loss to Japan, 2-1.
Four years after Lloyd scored in extra time to lift the United States to a 1-0 win over Brazil in the Olympic final, she scored two more golden goals to give the Americans their third straight gold.
"Maybe for my third Olympic final I'm going to have to score a hat trick," Lloyd said.
The United States has won four of the five Olympic tournaments ever contested. The Americans also won gold in 1996, 2004 and 2008. They won silver in 2000.
Japan defeated the United States in the World Cup last year on penalties, 3-1, after a 2-2 tie that saw both countries score in extra time. The Japanese were denied the first World Cup-Olympics double in history.
Before 80,203 fans - a record for a women's Olympic soccer game - could settle into their seats, Lloyd notched her third goal of this Olympics to kick start a wild first half.
The first 45 minutes also included three balls off the woodwork - one tipped off the crossbar by U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo - and a missed penalty for a handball.
Alex Morgan set up the early goal when she lifted a pass from the left side of the penalty area to the far post toward Abby Wambach. Lloyd stole the ball off the foot of Wambach, as she sneaked in to head home from just a few yards out.
"My heart goes out to Carli. She stepped up when she needed to step up. She is a big-time player who steps up when she needs to," said Solo.
The Americans were ahead, but their backs were against the wall for almost all of the final 35 minutes of the first half.
Yuki Ogimi forced Solo to make saves in the 17th and 18th, and the second was tipped just enough to go off the crossbar. Japan then had a penalty appeal for a handball denied on Tobin Heath, who clearly played the ball with her arm.
Japan nearly gifted the United States a second goal just before the half-hour, as defender Azusa Iwashimizu sent a cross off her own post. The Japanese were then within inches on the other end, as Aya Miyama hit the bar in the 33rd.
The United States survived the wild half with a one-goal lead and Lloyd added her second goal less than 10 minutes into the second half.
Lloyd made a brilliant run down the middle of the field to the edge of the box and shot across her body back to the left, curling a shot just inside the post and into the side netting.
"What I do best is dribbling and making shots from distance. It opened up and I just kept going and just unleashed it. I didn't think too much and it went in the back of the net," said Lloyd.
But Japan was back within a goal less than 10 minutes later.
Ogimi pulled a goal back for Japan in the 63rd as she was able to convert from just a couple yards out following a scrum inside the 6-yard box. The Americans initially cleared a chance off the line, but the ball later fell to Ogimi near the left post and she easily slotted home.
"Of course, I felt we could come back. But, unfortunately, we could not get the result in the end," stated Ogimi.
Japan goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto made her biggest save on Rachel Buehler in the 69th, and Solo was saved by teammate Amy LePeilbet on the opposite end in the 73rd as the chances continued for both countries.
Solo made another huge save with seven minutes left in normal time, as she was able to dive to her left to push a breakaway shot from Mana Iwabuchi away from the right side on the last good scoring chance of the match.
"You can't win a major tournament without some great goalkeeping. The Japan goalkeeper also made some good saves," noted Solo. "It's a team effort, but I'm proud to contribute finally."
A tense ending, including two minutes of stoppage time, followed as the United States held on for another gold medal.