Paraguay goalkeeper Cristina Recalde blocks a shot on goal by Sophia Smith in the second half. (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
I had a deja vu feeling watching the U.S. women’s national team trample and embarrass Paraguay Thursday night.
My thoughts harkened back to an international friendly a generation ago, when the Americans rolled over an opponent by a similar 9-0 margin.
I don’t remember the foe or the exact date, but I watched the game at a friend’s apartment – he was in soccer marketing at the time, and I won’t mention his name to protect his guilt.
By the time the score got to 6-0 or 7-0, he bellowed something to the effect: “This is great! This is fabulous.”
I asked what good did this do the national team, running over an opponent.
My friend was just in love with the team scoring and scoring and scoring. Never mind the Americans ran up the score, embarrassing the opposition, reminding us how un-competitive the game had become.
Which brings us to Thursday’s result in Cleveland against a Paraguay team that has never qualified for the Women’s World Cup or the Olympics in 13 attempts.
As the game went on, I got less and less interested in it. The drama had been taken out of it, outside of whether Carli Lloyd could become the first USWNT to score six goals in international match. She fell short, finishing with five to tie a long-time record.
Now, this is where it gets a bit more complicated.
Regardless of the quality of the opponent, the USWNT will go out and play to the best of its ability. It should never hold back.
But outside of padding statistics, what good does slaughtering a team? What sort of challenge is there in a game that pits the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals?
The USWNT has more competitive encounters in team scrimmages than in these types of friendlies.
That’s where U.S. Soccer comes into play. I realize the soccer world has been turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the federation needs to schedule better quality foes for these friendlies.
When I watch either national team, I want to watch a competitive match that doesn’t get out of hand minutes after the kickoff.
I realize these friendlies are ways for USWNT players to earn more money, especially since many soccer observers felt there would be a gold medal tour after the Olympics, not the aftermath of capturing a bronze medal.
During these games, I would like to see head coach Vlatko Andonovski call in more younger players to prepare for the future. Looking at the traditional calendar, qualifying for the 2023 Women’s World Cup probably will be held next fall.
The more the team integrates the newcomers with the veterans, the better off the USA will be.
And oh yeah, in case you were wondering, the USA confronts Paraguay again in Cincinnati Tuesday night.
Don’t be surprised if we see similar result on the scoreboard.