To the crowd, the play was the thing as well.

Three American expats waited outside Wembley a couple hours before the game, hoping to wave their flags as the team bus pulled in. They got their tickets about a month ago — before, of course, anyone knew who would be playing for the gold.

"We had faith the women would be here," said Alberto Maldonado, 34, who is originally from Texas, and became a soccer fan in 1994 when the U.S. hosted the World Cup.

Maldonado was here with his co-workers for the U.S. Air Force — they'll only say they do "desk work" — Lauren Regensberg, 23, of Colorado, and Jared Bennett, 23, of Nebraska.

His co-workers, Regensberg and Bennett, also trekked to Manchester, to another famous stadium, Old Trafford, on Monday to see what turned out to be a thriller that ended with Alex Morgan's header giving the U.S. a 4-3 victory.

"I about had a heart attack," said Bennett, who played soccer from childhood to college. "It was an awesome experience to see Americans play at Old Trafford."

Regensberg said she hopes the game will helps women's soccer become more of an every-year presence.

"There's not that many local teams," she said of the U.S. compared to other parts of the world. "I would not know who to follow."

Jean.marbella@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/jean_marbella

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