The fireworks went off one day late for the United States women’s soccer team, but the feeling was just as thrilling as seeing the sky light up on the Fourth of July.
The U.S. side came out of the box like gangbusters in its World Cup championship game against Japan on Sunday. Japan was the country that caused the U.S. misery when it came back and knocked off the U.S. in the 2011 World Cup final on penalty kicks when it seemed certain late that the Stars and Stripes would win the game. Sunday’s World Cup title was the first for the U.S., year in and year out one of the best teams in the world, since 1999. The Americans scored four goals in the first half and nothing Japan could do mattered, although the Asian team did cut the lead to 4-2 at one point.
But this was a red, white and blue day for the American women, albeit the team had no red or blue on their uniforms in an amazing oversight by this country’s team organizers and overseers. But let’s not quibble about colors, shall we? There was sea of the flag’s colors in the stands in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with most of the 50,000-plus in attendance firmly on the U.S. side and loving every minute of the rout.
It was a sweet victory for 35-year-old Abby Wambach, one of the veterans of the United States squad, who had waited so long to hoist the funny-looking World Cup trophy over her head in triumph. Also for Christie Rampone, the only woman who played or both the 1999 and 2015 teams. Hope Solo was able to forget her charges of domestic violence to shine brilliantly in goal, posting five shutouts in the World Cup and holding teams scoreless for a remarkable 540 consecutive minutes at one point. And Carli Lloyd was spectacular, scoring three goals in the title tilt.
Now comes the $64,000 question (well, maybe a lot more than that): Will this thrilling and highly viewed World Cup victory translate into increased following and support for women’s and girl’s soccer in the United States? I would imagine there will some spillover and that the women’s professional league in this country will get a bump in attendance and coverage, what with all or most of the U.S. players scattered about the league on various teams.
Women’s soccer has come a long ways since the days when few outside of the players’ parents cared much for what was taking place on the field. I’ve seen firsthand that the level of play at the high school and college level has improved dramatically, and it was obvious watching the World Cup that the women don’t take a back seat to the men in skill and hustle.
I’m hoping that the women’s game, similar to the way professional women’s basketball is slowly making inroads, will grow and flourish in the coming years. Isn’t it wonderful for our daughters and granddaughters to be able to dream about being Amy Wambaugh or Carli Lloyd some day and represent their country with such style and distinction on the world stage?
While soccer will always be a fifth or sixth sport in this country, both the women’s and the men’s national teams have clearly shown that this country has enough talent to be among the best teams in any future World Cup.
by John Torsiello