U.S. Women’s World Cup Victory Well-Deserved

After a 16 year hiatus, the U.S. Women’s National Team claimed the FIFA Women’s World Cup defeating Japan 5-2. The victory was the third World Cup victory for the U.S. women who also won in 1991 and 1999.USWNT_041415

This victory was especially sweet as all-time international leading scorer, Abby Wambach, finally won that elusive World Cup title to add to her stellar playing resume. Although Wambach scored only one goal and started only three games, her leadership with this World Cup winning squad was crucial.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo and defenders Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg carried the U.S. throughout most of the tournament. Johnston was stellar for most of the tournament, but appeared shaky the last two matches. However, she filled in admirably for the 40 year-old Christine Rampone and has a knack for getting to the ball on set plays like Abby Wambach. She will anchor that back line for many years to come.

The key for the U.S. was when coach Jill Ellis changed her lineup. Wambach started three of the first four matches before coming off the bench the last three games against China, Germany, and Japan. This allowed Alex Morgan to play as the lone forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Morgan’s speed and technical ability playing alone up top helped the U.S. attack getting numbers forward.

Moving to the 4-2-3-1 allowed Carli Lloyd to get forward and attack more which is her forte. Throughout the first four games, Lloyd was used more as a defensive midfielder in a 4-4-2 formation with Lauren Holiday in the attacking midfielder position.

Holiday and midfielder Megan Rapinoe missed the quarterfinal match against China which prompted Ellis to switch to the 4-2-3-1 and allow Lloyd to play more of an attacking role. After scoring on a penalty kick against Columbia, Lloyd scored on a brilliant header against China to send the United States to the semifinals against Germany where she scored on another penalty kick.

Lloyd definitely proved she is a money player and saved her best performance for last. In the final against Japan, Lloyd scored three goals in the first 16 minutes of the game to become the first player to score a hat trick in the women’s World Cup final. Her goal in the third minute of the game with the outside of her left-foot off a corner kick from Rapinoe was the fastest goal in women’s World Cup history. Lloyd scored her second goal two minutes later after Johnson back-heeled a ball played into the box off a free kick and Lloyd put it away. After Holiday scored on a volley off a failed defensive clearance, Lloyd scored her third goal on a heads up play. After receiving a pass, Lloyd started dribbling just inside the U.S. half before launching a right-footed blast that caught the Japanese keeper off guard as she back-peddled towards her net only to get her fingertips on the ball before it went into the net.

For her efforts. Lloyd received the Golden Ball as the game’s Most Valuable Player.

In a classy move with about three minutes left in regulation, Ellis inserted Rampone for Morgan. Rampone had appeared in one game earlier in the tournament which was her U.S. record fifth World Cup. This was definitely the World Cup swan songs for Rampone, Wambach, and midfielder Shannon Boxx who did not make an appearance. In addition, Solo turns 34 later this month and Lloyd will be 33 July 15. Players can lose a lot in a few years, let alone four, so Solo and Lloyd may have played their last World Cup as well. Krieger and midfielder Heather O’Reilly may be done too.

Yet, Ellis and her coaching staff have plenty of young talent who will be around for awhile. As stars retire, new stars emerge and carry future teams. Just as the 99ers passed the torch to Wambach after most of them retired in 2004 after winning gold in the summer Olympics, Rampone and Wambach have passed the torch to key players like Johnston and Morgan. It has been a fun month, and I am already looking forward to the Olympics next summer.

And that’s as I see it!

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