Carli Lloyd was the American hero at the 2012 Olympic final. (USA TODAY Sports)

The U.S. women’s national team won an Olympic gold medal in 2012, the last time the squad play at Wembley in the Summer Olympics final. The Americans will meet England at the stadium at 3 p.m. on Friday

By Michael Lewis
BigAppleSoccer.com Editor

LONDON — The United States avenged last year’s Women’s World Cup loss to Japan, recording a 2-1 triumph over their Asian rivals to capture their third consecutive Olympic gold medal on Thursday night.

Midfielder Carli Lloyd, who was not seen as a starter when the U.S. began the tournament, struck twice — once in each half — to lead the American attack before an Olympic-record crowd of 80,203 at Wembley Stadium.

Since women’s soccer was added to the Olympics in 1996, the U.S. has owned the competition, winning four out of a possible five tournaments. The Americans prevailed in 1996, 2004, 2008 and the London Summer Games. The only time they failed to earn the gold was in 2000, when they lost to Norway in extratime in the final.

After referee Bibiana Steinhaus blew her whistle to end the game, the Americans celebrated, hugging each other, applauding the U.S. fans at the venerable stadium and parading around with American flags.

U.S. captain and central defender Christie Rampone became the first player — man or woman — to win three gold medals. She also has a silver.

Midfielder Shannon Boxx, who had not started since suffering a hamstring injury in the 4-2 opening win over France, was started in place of Lauren Cheney, who had been slowed down by an ankle injury.

The U.S. might have taken a one-goal lead, but it was Japan that dominated the first half, particularly after the American goal.

The Japanese put on a clinic on how not to score a goal in the first half, they had so many near misses and close encounters.

Despite their dominance, it was the U.S. that grabbed the lead in the eighth minute. Tobin Heath penetrated almost to the goal line and sent a pass to Morgan on the near post. Morgan then passed the ball in front of the goalmouth and a charging Carli Lloyd headed it from five yards past Fukumoto for a 1-0 lead.

Lloyd became the second player — and American –to score in back-to-back Olympic finals. Tiffeny Milbrett (1996 and 2000) was the first.

Trailing by a goal, the Japanese went full throttle, coming close twice within a 53-second span.

First, Nahomi Kawasumi unleashed a shot from the left side that had goalkeeper Hope Solo beaten. As the ball was heading toward the net, captain and central defender Rampone managed to clear it out of harm’s way in the 17th minute.

Solo was called into action less than a minute later, producing a left-handed save on Homare Sawa’s 10-yard header to preserve the lead.

The relentless Japanese kept on attacking. After le Peilbet tackled Mizuho Sakaguchi American gridion football style just outside the left of the penalty area, Japan had a free kick. The ball hit Heath in the mid-section and then her arm in the 26th minute, but Steinhaus did not call a penalty.

A minute later, Azusa Iwashimizu, trying to clear the ball, headed a bullet toward her goal that bounded off the left post, which was the Americans’ best scoring opportunity in the first half other than the goal.

After that, it was all Japan for serious scoring opportunities for the remainder of the first half.

Aya Miyama hit the crossbar in the 33rd minute and only five minutes later Sinhobu Ohno’s long-range blast went just wide right.

Gaining their breath and composure at halftime, the U.S. managed to hold off Japan and created a few chances of its own.

The most important one came in the 54th minute when Lloyd, finding all sorts of room at midfield, dribbled up the field, beat Sakaguchi and launched a 20-yard rocket into the left corner for a 2-0 advantage.

But the Japanese refused to give up, slicing the lead in half in the 63rd minute. Miyama shot from point-blank range with Solo out of the goal. Rampone again made a clearance off the line. However, the rebound ended uo with an unmarked Yuki Ogimi, who slotted it home from three yards.

Japan almost made it an even game in the 83rd minute as Ohno stripped the ball from Rampone on the left side, dribbled in with Ogimi on her right and ripped a shot that forced Solo to made a two-handed save.

With nine seconds remaining in the match, Brooke Boyd’s header found the back of the net for the St. John’s University women, who salvaged a 1-1 Big East draw with Creighton at Belson Stadium in Queens, N.Y. on Thursday night.

As time was winding down, Jailene DeJesus played a ball back to Ava Collins, who threaded a cross that found the head of Boyd by the near post. The graduate student sent a header home for the equalizer to grab a point for the Red Storm (5-4-4, 2-1).

Senior goalkeeper Gina Muzi made stops in 75 minutes. Bower saw her first collegiate action late in the match, as the freshman recorded two crucial saves. Making her 13th-straight start this season, keeper Keelan Terrell logged three saves for Creighton (6-2-5, 2-2-1).

The Bluejays outshot the Red Storm, 17-11, but corner kicks favored the Johnnies, 4-1.

Creighton drew first blood in the 49th minute when Abigail Santana sent a blast by Muzi for the midfielder’s third goal of the year.

St. John’s will return to action with a rematch of last year’s Big East quarterfinals at Providence College on Sunday at 1 p.m.