USWNT makes a statement in final against Japan
By Tyler Strauss
College Contributor Network
The stage in Vancouver for Sunday night's World Cup Final match between USA and Japan was set for any sort of outcome, with no team heavily favored. However, it turns out the United States missed that memo. Not only did the U.S. Women seize their opportunity for redemption, but they made it unforgettable.
Led by their fearless captain Carli Lloyd, the women put in a breathtaking performance against a side that had denied them glory just four years earlier.
Four years ago, the women failed to seize glory, letting a well deserved championship slip through their fingers. But credit to the women, they learned from past failures, and wouldn't let the opportunity pass them by this time. Straight from the opening whistle, the USA grabbed the reins of the match and didn't surrender them for 90 minutes.
Throughout the entire tournament up to the final, while the women performed admirably, especially against Germany, I was always of the opinion that they had another couple of levels that they could reach. They were playing well, but the potential for them to explode onto the scene was there the entire tournament. And boy was this the case in the final.
While most of the country now recognizes Carli Lloyd as a national hero, it's important to truly understand the complete performance that she put in last night. The most elegant aspect was her goals, namely the one from midfield. The midfielder recognized that the Japanese goalie was too far off her line, and tried to test the waters. However, the execution to finish in that fashion was not only impressive, but quite possibly the most sensational goal in the history of the Women's World Cup.
Furthermore, her other two goals impressed me just as much, with her ability to be dangerous on set pieces. It's almost as if Lloyd knew where the ball would fall, because she always seemed to be there all night.
However, the real testament to Lloyd's performance last night was a tackle she put in during the 89th minute. While the match was all but over, and the women were simply waiting for the final whistle, Lloyd was applying the same pressure she had in the first five minutes of the match. This character that Lloyd displayed made her the outstanding performer of last night's match.
Furthermore, while quite possibly putting in the best single handed performance that the tournament has ever seen, she didn't let it affect her personality. When U.S. Women's legend Abby Wambach checked into the match, Lloyd surrendered her captain armband so quickly, it was almost as if she were keeping it warm for the 35-year old striker. This wasn't necessary, but it was a true sign of respect.
In a way, the whole moment signified a passing of a torch. In past years, it was up to Abby to lead the women towards glory, often shouldering the burden of being the hero. However, Lloyd proved in this tournament that she is ready to be that player for the women, and the team is all the better for it.
There are so many other notable players for the women's team that were vital to their World Cup victory. First and foremost it's important to highlight the defensive efforts of the women's backline. Lead by Julie Johnston, the back four were almost impenetrable, allowing just three goals all tournament. Their record of 540 minutes without allowing a goal tied Germany's all-time record. They were relentless at the back, showing a persistent, tiresome work ethic. They were disciplined, composed and well-prepared. Jill Ellis deserves a huge amount of credit for this defensive unit.
The American coach prepared this squad for every possible situation they might face in Vancouver. She made controversial decisions in the players who she picked, with some people probably still questioning her choices. However, when the final whistle sounded, no one could question Ellis's tactics, her choices or her demeanor.
I could name the entire national team and pick out all of their contributions to the victory. However, the more important aspect to their triumph was their unity, both on and off the pitch. Their dedication to their overall goal was unreplicated by any other nation in the tournament. This is the sole reason for their success.
The U.S. wanted it most, and it showed. Players like Lloyd, Morgan, and Solo lead their squad into Vancouver with one simple mission: To right the wrongs of past years, and bring home the World Cup to America. The women did just that, and they did so in spectacular fashion. They beat the best teams in the world, and in the final where it mattered most, they made a statement. While Carli Lloyd will now be renown as a national hero, this women's team will go down as one of the best ever American teams in any sport.
Prior to the match, U.S. Men's legend, Landon Donovan was caught on video leading the fans in the historic "I believe that we will win chant." While this was entertaining, it was the women who carried that belief throughout the entire tournament. The women's breakthrough performance against Japan was symbolic of that belief. Their hard work, and will for redemption held above all other factors. And in the end, the ladies won football's highest honor in spectacular fashion.
Go on ladies, take a bow.
Tyler Strauss is a student at Fordham University. He currently interns at the New York Cosmos and writes for their website. Tyler is also a contributor to many other soccer blogs such as CFCNet, ChelseaDaft, The Pride of London, and The Stamford Shed. He is seeking a career in the football (soccer) industry.