By Tyler Poslosky | BSU at the Games
Becky Sauerbrunn, an alternate defender for the U.S. women’s soccer team, was about to enter the most important game of her life.
With 10 minutes remaining in the gold medal match between the U.S. and Japan, defender Rachel Buehler went down with an injury.
In came Sauerbrunn.
With Japan darting into the offensive zone, Sauerbrunn positioned herself between two Japanese forwards with the hopes of forcing a shot. She managed to block off a passing lane from her opponents, dictating a premature shot that goalkeeper and captain Hope Solo managed to save.
“Becky came up huge for us,” forward Alex Morgan said.
It was Sauerbrunn’s play that helped seal the gold medal for the U.S.
Suddenly, all 80,203 fans stood up and cheered for both Solo and Sauerbrunn.
“We have so much confidence in [Becky],” Morgan said. “Every practice, I hate going up against Becky because she just anticipates your every move. She’s so organized defensively and has such great awareness that she’s just a defender that you don’t want to go up against.”
The play was drawn up during the U.S.’s pre-Olympic camp, and was one Solo knew would work, especially with Sauerbrunn in the middle.
“I remember that day at practice,” Solo said. “I was doing some shooting with [coach] Paul [Rogers] and all the front-runners and he was on the side-field far away. I just remember him screaming my name to come down. He was working with the defenders.
“I kind of rolled my eyes. I’m like, ‘what do you need Tony? I’m working on this stuff over here with the forwards.’ I ran down there and he wanted to run through it. We ran through it and it was crazy.”
Solo praised Sauerbrunn for her efforts on that final play, which could have resulted in a game-tying goal for Japan.
“Becky’s like, ‘Hope, I just really wanted to force the shot,’” Solo said. “For her to think to not only do the physical work, but to think and process it in a short amount of time, it just shows the sophistication in her play.”
Minutes later, the game was over, leaving Sauerbrunn celebrating on the podium with a gold medal dangling from her neck along with the rest of her teammates.
It’s not always about the players who score the winning goal or receive the loudest cheer from the crowd. Sometimes it’s about the player who rises to the top in a game’s most crucial time.
“Becky is one of those unsung heroes I’m talking about,” forward Abby Wambach said. “A player that on most other national teams would probably be their starting center-back. Sometimes it’s the Rudy that really does make a team a champion.”
Tyler Poslosky is a senior journalism news major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Tyler and the BSU team at @tylerposlosky, @bsuatthegames andwww.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.