It was no secret Canada's strategy against the deeper, more talented Americans was to slow the game down. That included, Wambach said, having goalkeeper Erin McLeod hold the ball as long as possible, even over 15 seconds at times during the first half. Soccer rules say the goalkeeper must get rid of the ball within six seconds.
During the second half, with the U.S. frantically trying to speed up the game while attempting multiple comebacks, Wambach began running near referee Christiana Pedersen and counting off the seconds that McLeod held the ball. She said she often got to 10 and into even the teens.
"I wasn't yelling. I was just counting," Wambach revealed Tuesday during an interview at the team hotel. "Probably did it five to seven times."
The last time came in the 78th minute, with Canada trying to milk a 3-2 lead. McLeod made a save, and Wambach began counting again.
"I got to 10 seconds right next to the referee, and at 10 seconds she blew the whistle," Wambach said.
The call was for delay of game. There was confusion on the field, because it was an exceedingly rare decision. Not another American or Canadian player or coach remembers the call ever being made, let alone in such crucial moments of an international tournament.
Regardless, the result was an indirect kick for the Americans inside the Canadian box. That kick wound up hitting a Canadian defender's hand, which meant a penalty kick for the Americans.
Wambach stepped up to the spot in the 80th minute and drilled a low shot off the left post and into the net to tie the game.
In a famous baseball game in 1908, Johnny Evers' smart play saved his Chicago Cubs from a loss that would prove to be the difference in the pennant race. Evers, a hall of famer, was the second baseman in the celebrated double play combination of Tinker to Evers to Chance. In a critical game late in the season against rival New York Giants, Evers' insistence on applying a rule that was rarely enforced at the time saved the game and the season. The game became regarded as the most controversial in baseball history and has become known as Merkle's Boner. With 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth and runners on 1st and 3d in a tie game, the batter stroked a single to the outfield sending the runner on third base home with the apparent winning run. Fred Merkle, a rookie running from first, saw the run score from third and failed to run all the way to 2d base. This was typical of the day.
Official rule 4.09 states that "A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made ... by any runner being forced out". However, in 1908, this force-out rule was usually not enforced on walkoff hits.
Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers saw an opportunity to have the rule enforced. He shouted to center fielder Solly Hofman, who, amid the chaos caused by thousands of celebrating Giants fans, retrieved the ball and threw it to Evers. According to one account, Joe McGinnity, a Giants pitcher who was coaching first base that day, intercepted the ball and threw it away into the crowd of fans. Evers retrieved the ball—or found a different ball—and touched second base. Umpires Emslie and O'Day hurriedly consulted and O'Day, who saw the play from home plate, ruled that Merkle had not touched second base, and on that basis Emslie ruled him out on a force and O'Day ruled that the run did not score.The game was determined to have ended in a tie. The teams would finish the season in a tie for first place, a playoff was required, and the Cubs won the playoff game and the pennant.