There were plenty of reasons for the USWNT to celebrate. (Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports)
The U.S. women’s national team captured the Women’s World Cup in 2019.
And the sun also rises.
For the second time in a row and fourth time overall, the Americans paraded around with the trophy. This time it was at Led Stade de Lyon in France, as they recorded a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final on July 7.
The USWNT became the second team to win consecutive World Cups, duplicating Germany’s feat in 2003 and 2007.
“It’s crazy, absolute crazy,” right back Kelley O’Hara said. “We feel like we did the impossible today.”
After enjoying group-stage victories over Thailand (13-0), Chile (3-0) and Sweden (2-0), the degree of difficulty turned more severe. Despite having one less rest day than their foes, the Americans found ways to record wins over No. 13 Spain in the Round of 16, No. 4 France in the quarterfinals and No. 3 England in the semifinals before battling the eighth-ranked Netherlands.
“Winning a World Cup is probably the hardest thing you can do in football,” said O’Hara, forced from the game at halftime with to a possible concussion. “It’s a mental gymnastics the last 42 days. It’s so hard. This is the hardest path we ever had to take to win in a major tournament.”
Megan Rapinoe, who finished with six goals, captured both top individual honors, the Golden Ball as MVP and Golden Boot as the leading goal-scorer.
But it was far from a one-woman show. Alex Morgan scored five goals in the win over Thailand. Alyssa Naeher came up huge with a vital save in the semifinals.The backline was solid. The midfield, left by veteran Julie Ertz and 24-year-old Rose Lavelle, who earned the Bronze Ball, played up to its potential and then some in key moments. And Carli Lloyd was always a viable option off the bench.
Two local players also were on the squad — Rockville Centre, N.Y. native Crystal Dunn, an attacking player who was called on to play left back, and Northport, N.Y. native Allie Long, a midfielder.
“The level overall is the women’s game is growing exponentially,” U.S. head coach Jill Ellis said. “This was incredibly difficult. The teams we had to come through were some of the best in the world. In terms of the path and the level, this was pretty challenging.”
A year after winning the 2015 WWC, the USA fell hard at the 2016 Rio Olympics as it failed to reach the medal round for the first time in its history. It was time for Ellis to rebuild and restructure the team.
“I knew after 2016 we had to deconstruct and reconstruct the team,” she said. “That was hard. But to get to this point and see the validation in all our work, it speaks for itself. People out there know about 1/10th of what we do. Congratulations to the Netherlands. They’re a world class team and they gave us a heck of a game tonight.”
The USWNT’s next challenge?
Easy. That will be qualifying for the Tokyo Summer Olympics next month.
If the Americans make it that far, they will try to capture some of the Olympic glory they earned by winning golds at the 2014, 2008 and 2012 Summer Games.
That won’t be as easy.