American soccer has fashioned a couple of thrilling runs to capture the country's imagination, but both have ended in disappointment -- the U.S. women's failure in Sunday's Women's World Cup final perhaps stinging worse than the men's overtime defeat to Ghana last year in South Africa.
No matter, reaching the final is success -- even if it's not the success demanded of America's women -- and the road was paved through Southern California. Nine of the Yanks' 13 goals in the six games were scored by Southlanders.
Here are tournament grades for the L.A.-area players on the U.S. roster:
ABBY WAMBACH: A
The big forward, a part-time Hermosa Beach resident, shook off an injury-fueled slump by scoring goals in the final four games, none bigger than the stoppage-time, overtime header against Brazil. Her 122nd for the U.S. should have been enough to win the World Cup. A deserving Silver Ball winner as the tournament's No. 2 player.
LAUREN CHENEY: A-
The former UCLA All-American took the biggest step forward, winning a starting job in time for the opener and demonstrating her versatility and skill in solid performances game after game. She netted a couple of goals and set up three more, and her ankle injury vs. Japan deprived the U.S. of a critical attacking presence after halftime.
ALEX MORGAN: A-
The 22-year-old Diamond Bar product showed the world what U.S. fans have been seeing for the past year or so. The speedy striker was sensational in her customary role off the bench, scoring a fine goal to nail down the semifinal win over France and netting a wonderful would-be winner against Japan.
SHANNON BOXX: B
The veteran central midfielder from Redondo Beach was solid defensively and in the transition game, but she wasn't the force she needs to be on attack. Some of the blame for that goes to coach Pia Sundhage's system, which is limited with Carli Lloyd, no playmaker, in the attacking-midfield role.
AMY RODRIGUEZ: C-
The Lake Forest forward who starred at USC has struggled to be a consistent scorer at the top level and contributes more with her defense-stretching speed than with her finishing. But she provided too little in five starts and watched the final from the bench.