Blog Entry

U.S. women at the World Cup: What now?

Posted on: July 11, 2011 11:57 am
Edited on: July 11, 2011 12:21 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It took the U.S. Women's National Team 12 long years. But Brandi Chastain finally has some company.

No, we're not already putting yesterday's fightback-for-the-ages against Brazil on the same pedestal as Chastain's legendary Cup-clinching penalty kick and (just as legendary) jersey-optional celebration. That moment remains the single most iconic moment in U.S. soccer history, men's or women's, and until Abby Wambach winds up on the cover of Time, it's no contest. 

But it is a conversation. Wambach's 122nd-minute goal* and the U.S.'s subsequent victory on penalties sent Twitter into a frenzy, led every highlight package edited in this country between then and now, and drew congratulations from everyone from Ochocinco to Li'l Wayne. Not one not two but three different senior writers were moved to sing the praises of their epic in Dresden. Yes, the USWNT have had their moments since 1999 (a pair of Olympic gold medals among them), but at no time have they firmly, decisively re-entered the national sports consciousness the way they did yesterday. 

So they've got our attention. Which is why we ask: What now?

It was just a year ago the country was experiencing the same brand of summer soccer euphoria, thanks to Landon Donovan's equally-thrilling goal against Algeria to send the U.S. men into the final 16 of their World Cup. Wambach's goal drew immediate comparisons to Donovan's for many reasons -- their improbable lateness, their shared do-or-die drama, the impeccable call of ESPN's Ian Darke on each -- but one overlooked similarity is the golden opportunity each created for their respective teams. For the USMNT, it meant a path to an unprecedented Cup semifinal berth free of any of the world's traditional powers; only Ghana and Uruguay stood in their way.

After a carnage-filled quarterfinal round, the U.S. women likewise find themselves the sudden favorite among the four remaining teams. Highly-touted England went out on penalties to upstart European rivals France; hosts Germany were stunned by Japan 1-0 in what many observers have called the biggest upset in Women's World Cup history; and of course Brazil is going home trophyless once again, having run into their American archrivals a round (or two) earlier than they'd have liked. Both the French and likely finalist Sweden (3-1 quarterfinal victors over a solid Australian team) have strong, sound programs that only the U.S.'s best efforts will overcome, but neither can boast the USWNT's overall depth or tournament-honed pedigree. 

In short, the door is open. And with the team still riding the wave of interest generated by yesterday's impossible finish, walking through it means the names of stars like Wambach, Hope Solo, and Megan Rapinoe (provider of that pinpoint cross to Wambach) could reach the same kind of household status held by previous USWNT stars like Chastain, Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy. Win these two matches -- winnable matches, at the minimum -- and the U.S. women come home with even more than a championship.

More Women's World Cup
But we said the same things before the U.S. men faced Ghana, before they came out flat and looked even flatter by the end of the Ghanaians' 2-1 extra-time victory. Similarly, as defining a moment as yesterday's match was, it might have been the worst possible way for the U.S. women to advance. As they proved against Brazil, the USWNT's greatest strength isn't technical skill or tactical acumen so much as its athleticism, physicality, determination and absolutely peerless workrate. But after riding yesterday's emotional roller-coaster for 120 minutes and playing 10-on-11 for nearly 60, do the Americans still have enough energy in reserve -- mentally or physically -- to still press that advantage?

That's not the team's only problem, either. For all of Wambach's aerial brilliance and fellow striker Amy Rodriguez's speed, the U.S. has often lacked creativity in attack, preferring a direct route approach that defenders at this level (unless they've been on the field for 122 minutes already) are usually prepared to deal with. Coach Pia Sundhage has seemed unwilling or unable to call on her bench, exacerbating the fitness issue. And most worryingly, the U.S. back line -- led by intelligent-but-aging centerback Christie Rampone -- has looked wobbly throughout the tournament (most notably in the 2-1 group stage loss to Sweden that doomed the Americans to the Brazil quarterfinal in the first place). Now they face France without red-carded starter Rachel Buehler, and the relatively green Becky Sauerbrunn making her tournament debut in Buehler's place.

But for all of that, the Americans still have plenty going for them. They have Solo, by nearly all accounts the world's best goalkeeper. They have the indomitable Wambach. In Rapinoe, Lauren Cheney, and Heather O'Reilly, they have a wealth of outside attacking talent that few teams can match. More than anything, they have the same never-say-die fighting spirit that has always been the hallmark of American soccer, men's or women's.

That spirit is why they now also have the the greatest opportunity of their soccer careers. What now? Now the USWNT either takes advantage of that opportunity, or Wambach's goal -- like Donovan's before it -- is remembered as the brilliant high point of a World Cup campaign that wound up less brilliant than it might have been.

*Do you realize how few soccer matches even have 122nd minutes? 

Since: Nov 26, 2007
Posted on: July 11, 2011 9:04 pm

U.S. women at the World Cup: What now?

Hopefully they go on and claim the cup.  They certainly have more of the pedigree to do so than the Men's team.  I watched the first game with France and thought they were OK.  The U.S should be able to get past them but certainly either Sweden or Japan will be much tougher.  Sweden of course beat them in the round robin and Japan must be doing something right to beat Germany.  Personally, I think Abby's goal was much more dramatic than Landon Donovan last year especially since the women's team was short one player and shouldn't have been worse than even to start with because of the horrible call on the saved penalty kick.  Anyway, I'll probably miss the semi-final vs France..but go USA.

Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: July 11, 2011 7:07 pm

U.S. women at the World Cup: What now?

Well done by a Team that showed more heart and desire than we get to see in these types of events anymore as we now have the "professional" sports athlete competing in the major sports at the Olympics and World Cup's, and of course the Baseball World Classic. So, it was nice to see this again as we used to see in the Olympics like the Miracle on Ice or the time when the USA college b'ballers got robbed by the officals against the Russians. I found myself on the edge of my seat and yelling at the T.V. at the refs unbelievable and amatueristic calls. Clearly that ref was in way over her head and was not ready for a game with this sort of intensity. However, in the end, it was a good old American come back and an unbelievable goal, truly incredible. The game itself is being downplayed a little, due to the fact it was only a quarterfinal and not the actual final, but, if this was not the single best game in the history of USA soccer, I don't know what game would be. The 1999 final against hated rival China was not a great game, it was a great result, and how it ended, but not near the intensity or swings of emotion this game had. This was truly an Instant Classic and deserves to be right up there with the greatest games in the history of Internantional sporting events.   

Since: Aug 1, 2010
Posted on: July 11, 2011 6:40 pm

U.S. women at the World Cup: What now?

Wow what a finish for this quarter final game! Again I want to remind you that this team advances to the semi-finals and have some obstacles to overcome, hopefully not refs as was evident in this match. This team has the potential to become the talk of the sports world for this summer, albeit when there is not football going on. I predict that Hope Solo will be the star of this team, among others, but can you see the message her name transcends to her team? I will be your Hope and I will be Solo at the net. Go USA!!

Since: Dec 18, 2007
Posted on: July 11, 2011 4:42 pm

U.S. women at the World Cup: What now?

You Go GIRLS!!!!! Bring home the world cup again. Heck, with Hans Solos' sister on the team, we cant lose. USA! USA! USA!

Since: Sep 14, 2006
Posted on: July 11, 2011 4:41 pm

U.S. women at the World Cup: What now?

Great win! Congrats to the women! Admittedly, I'm not a soccer fan but rather I am a sports fan. Yesterday's game showed true grit by the US squad, playing a "man" down and staying in it until winning at the end. It does seem to me that sometimes the women play sloppy with a bunch of errant passes (compared to the mens games last year). The US squad also seems to be too willing to just take shots... no matter how low percentage they may be. Whereas other squads work the ball around with passing, the US is all-to-willing to go one-on-4 or more and take wild shots on goal.

Since: Jan 10, 2007
Posted on: July 11, 2011 4:13 pm

U.S. women at the World Cup: What now?

All i really have to say is that it was a spectacular victory after overcoming amazing odds. i think that match can be deemed "The Miracle on Turf".

Since: Jun 7, 2010
Posted on: July 11, 2011 3:33 pm

U.S. women at the World Cup: What now?

Great Win! But if you want equal press as the men I think they should take their shirts off and trade with the other team at the end of the game like the men do.Laughing

Since: Sep 25, 2007
Posted on: July 11, 2011 3:12 pm

Women's Soccer and CBS Sports

I just do not get it.  Some of the most exciting sports on the planet and we are left searching though all kinds of blogs and links and comment to find ANY news of the Women's World Cup on  What, this does not rate high enough on your rating scale?  When the Cup first started I looked high and low for information on the site for the schedule, discussion about when our ladies would play, etc...  Nothing.  I ended up going to the competitors site to find our what was going on.  Now with such an exciting win I thought for sure we would see some coverage here, but all I find is a blog entry or two and even the blogs that take time to post information cant even get the links right.  For instance  goes to "eye on college football".  Come on boys...  These Women deserve better....

Since: Dec 10, 2008
Posted on: July 11, 2011 2:32 pm

U.S. women at the World Cup: What now?

The US Women deserved & earned the victory over Brasil, especially after how the referee tried to take them out of the game. some times good does win out over evil.

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