Benefield: US women’s team caps off dominating World Cup run
The United States Women’s National Team bore the burden of expectation. They bore the burden of the unrelenting scrutiny. And for four weeks at the Women’s World Cup in France, they bore the responsibility of wearing the jersey of the United States, a nation whose place on the world stage in 2019 is undeniably fraught and complicated.
And they never bowed. They won. Convincingly.
The U.S. beat a tough, scrappy and overachieving Netherlands team 2-0 in Stade de Lyon on Sunday to capture their second straight and fourth-ever World Cup trophy and further secure their place as the most dominant program in women’s soccer.
Megan Rapinoe, a co-captain and outspoken leader of this team, will be credited with the game winner after she finished a penalty kick in the 61st minute. But midfielder Rose Lavelle’s goal eight minutes later is more important to the future of the United States national team.
Lavelle’s brilliant strike after streaking through defenders starting at the half line, cemented the win, took every bit of wind out of the sails of a tough Dutch team and announced to the world that yes, Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn and others on this roster are in their 30s but the future of the United States national team is in fine hands.
Before the tournament even began, this absolutely loaded with talent U.S. team was hammered for their confidence, for having the temerity to believe and — oh my — say out loud that they were coming to defend the cup.
Arrogant? Distasteful? Unpatriotic? A hue and cry for this group to stay in their lane? This team’s lane is an eight-lane highway.
In more than 630 minutes of soccer over seven games in four weeks, this team never trailed. They scored within the first 12 minutes of every game they played barring the final when it took them 61 minutes to get on the board and take the lead, thanks in no small part to an unbelievable effort put in by the Netherlands’ goalkeeper, Sari van Veenendaal.
Their dominance was thrilling and it was total. No team was close, and this was the most packed with talent fielded in the history of women’s soccer. And this: No team had to run the gauntlet that the Americans did, either on the field or off.
They had to beat some of the strongest teams in the world, including host France, to even make the final. Instead of celebrating their strength and skill after their opening round 13-0 win over Thailand, the only thing seemingly everyone could talk about was their so-called distasteful goal celebrations. It’s a storyline that lingered throughout the tournament and one that quickly morphed into a label of arrogance.
What’s that old saying: It ain’t bragging if it’s true?
This is the top-ranked team in the world. They are only the second squad on earth to win back-to-back World Cup titles. They are a group who set a record for most goals in a World Cup. They are a team that owns the most World Cup titles ever.
They celebrate goals with gusto because they were earned against the greatest assemblage of soccer talent in the world. Score here and it’s the biggest moment of a career, the first line of an obituary and a moment that will never be forgotten. And it’s a moment to celebrate. Tone it down? Please.