USA forward (13) Alex Morgan celebrates with teammates after scoring the winning goal in extra time against Canada. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
MANCHESTER, England (USA TODAY) - In the third minute of stoppage time in the second extra time, Alex Morgan found a little something extra.
Her header goal off Heather O'Reilly's foot in an Olympic semifinal vs. Canada sealed a 4-3 victory and a gold-medal game berth for the U.S. women's soccer team, despite an incredible effort from a team they were supposed to trounce.
The win sets up the final against Japan, which edged France 2-1 in the other women's semifinal, setting up a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final. The U.S. lost that game in penalty kicks. Japan is trying to be just the second team to win a World Cup and an Olympic final in back-to-back years. Italy's men's side did it at the Berlin Games in 1936.
The United States is 44-3-5 against Canada in women's soccer history and unbeaten in their previous 26 meetings.
The Canadians have never beaten the U.S. in an Olympics or World Cup and lost 4-0 to the Americans in Olympic qualifying match earlier this year, yet set the pace here at Old Trafford.
Canadian striker Christine Sinclair - cited by the American players and coach as one of the most underrated and lethal goal scorers in the world - scored in the 22nd, 67th and 73rd minute.
U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe responded to Sinclair's first goal in the 54th minute with what's known as an Olympic Goal - a goal which scores directly off a corner kick. Hers was the first shot on goal for an American team that dominated the first 10 minutes of play but failed to produce real chances in the first half.
Sinclair responded 13 minutes later, but Rapinoe fired back with a strike that banged home off the left post in the 70th minute. Sinclair would score again three minutes later, but a handball committed near the goal by Canada's Lauren Sesselmann merited an Abby Wambach penalty kick, which she converted in the 80th minute, tying the score 3-3.
Wambach and Sinclair entered the game No. 2 and No. 3 on the all time international goals list, regardless of gender. Each crept closer to leader Mia Hamm (158), as Wambach scored No. 143, and Sinclair scored Nos. 141, 142, and 143.
After scoring twice in the Olympic opener vs. France, Alex Morgan had yet to score in three games before Monday. Wambach has scored in all five games and trails only Sinclair (7) for the tournament lead.