Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Women's World Cup Finale: Sweet Vindication and Swan Song

On this Sunday night, it didn't matter if you loved soccer or hated it. It was Fourth of July weekend, and the USA Women's soccer team was in a déjà vu position – the World Cup Final against Japan.

Beating Japan two years ago at the Olympics was one thing, but avenging their 2011 World Cup loss to Japan was completely different. And, doing it in the fashion they did can only be described in one word – epic.

A flurry of four USA goals in the first 16 minutes sent the U.S.-dominated crowd into a frenzy in Vancouver. Not only that, but we also saw an other-worldly performance from Carli Lloyd, who struck a hat trick, capped off in the 16th minute by one of the most exciting goals you will ever see from midfield!

I don't care where you rank this performance/moment in sports history and there have been some amazing plays/feats over the years, from "The Catch" of Montana to Clark in the 1982  NFC Championship (I know, it still stings!), to the Cal-Stanford play, to "Jordan's last shot," to Phelps winning 8 Gold Medals, to the 1980 USA Hockey team beating the Soviet Union in miraculous fashion – this performance by Lloyd and her final goal has to be a part of the discussion. Maybe, I'm overreacting. Or, maybe, this was just the performance to get people to finally appreciate women's soccer.

In the midst of the chaos that circulated across U.S. bars and homes throughout the country, the legend Abby Wambach entered the game in its final stages. The game was already in hand, but maybe this was fitting. Wambach, who arguably carried the team and U.S. women's soccer for more than a decade, entered her World Cup swan song knowing she finally did it, helping get the USA that elusive World Cup, and first since 1999. 

Having been the heart and soul of U.S. women's soccer for so long, it was a fitting passing of the torch to players like Lloyd, who looks to most certainly be capable of carrying it far into the future. And, it was an exit fitting to Wambach, who may not be the best player in USA soccer history, but certainly one of the most clutch and inspirational.