Saturday, January 22

With the Olympic gold in Tokyo, this edition of the USWNT would become the GOAT of women’s football

There will never be another moment in the United States women’s national team like the one Brandi Chastain wrote in 1999, under the scorching Southern California sun, before a crowd of more than 90,000 at the Rose Bowl and a television audience beyond what. that nobody had imagined. a women’s soccer game.

It wasn’t his time alone, of course. Many others had contributed to the process that brought her within 12 yards of a winning score at the Women’s World Cup that would change the way the United States viewed the Women’s World Cup. But he had to hit that ball past China’s goalkeeper Gao Hong to secure the United States championship. And he did.

Everything that America’s women’s soccer has become was built in those few seconds. There had been a World Cup title eight years earlier, but the tournament did not initially bear that name and few in this country even knew it was happening. The 1999 championship raised awareness among American fans, sensitized potential American players, and even made some distant parts of the soccer-loving, female-suppressing world take notice. Nothing can usurp the legacy of Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Michelle Akers and Julie Foudy and their teammates.

Look: USWNT during the Olympics on fuboTV

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Which is not to say that his greatness cannot be surpassed. That can happen. And it will, if the current edition of the USWNT can add an Olympic gold medal to the Women’s World Cup title secured two years ago, before the pandemic led to a 12-month postponement of the Games.

MORE: Complete Olympic Women’s Soccer Calendar

The team that includes Megan Rapinoe, Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Becky Sauerbrunn lacks a cool nickname like “the 99ers.” And, for the moment, they may lack Julie Ertz, the extraordinary defensive midfielder who is nearing the end of her recovery from a spring injury that kept her out of all of the team’s pre-Olympics prep games. Yet that is all that this group is missing, which is so deep and talented that it struggles, with all its might, to find space on the field for such gifted players as Christen Press, Lindsey Horan and Carli Lloyd.

That’s the best case, right there, for 2019 over 1999.

Press (below) has scored five goals and recorded four assists in nine starts for the USWNT this year. He has participated in 37 goals in his last 37 international matches. And there’s a chance that he won’t be a regular starter at this tournament, with veteran Tobin Heath coming back to health.

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Horan, a midfielder capable of dominating a game with her ability to cover the field, control the ball and generate scoring opportunities, went to the 2019 Women’s World Cup as the reigning Most Valuable Player in the NWSL. He started just four of the seven games, starting on the bench in the quarterfinals against France and the final against the Netherlands because coach Jill Ellis preferred Mewis and Lavelle. That could also be the case at the Olympics with new coach Vlatko Andonovski.

Lloyd is a legend on the national team, although still (extremely) active. She is ranked No. 6 on the global list for women’s career goals and No. 3 in national team appearances. He scored the championship winning goal at two Olympics (2008, 2012) and a hat trick in the 2015 World Cup final. Now 39, he has led the USWNT in assists this calendar year. But with Alex Morgan back after having his first child in 2020, the starting forward job could be his.

These are the main reasons to favor 2019 over 1999.

But not the only ones:

Increased competition: The 2019 World Cup title was won against the deepest field in the history of women’s football, and the brutal USWNT draw meant topping an unshakable series of exceptional opponents. Starting with the final group match against Sweden, in which the Americans needed at least a draw to win their group, they faced five teams ranked 13th or better over a 17-day stretch: No. 9 Sweden, No. 13 Spain , No. 4 France, No. 3 England and No. 8 Holland, which was the current European champion.

In large part because of what the 99ers showed the world, more nations are spending more money promoting and developing women’s soccer. That was most evident in the knockout round games USA vs. France and USA vs. England in 2019.

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Work on the road: The 99ers had the advantage of playing that World Cup in the United States, with group games at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, Soldier Field in Chicago and Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts, then the quarterfinals in the Washington area and the semifinals in the Stanford Stadium in Northern. California.

The 2019 team had to beat France, in France (pictured above). Nancy Armor of USA Today called it “the most important game in women’s soccer. Forever.”

The sublime Crystal Dunn: Because the United States has so much attack and midfield, each of the last two coaches has deployed Dunn (below) as the team’s left back. As a club player, she mainly occupies attacking positions. He has scored 36 goals and delivered 27 assists in 111 games for clubs like the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage of the NWSL and Chelsea FC in England, and he shows that ability when the occasion permits for the national team. But she has also become a tremendous one-on-one defender with a shrewd sense of positioning to shut out counter attacks. There is no player like her now, nor two decades ago.

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Even some 99ers agree. After the United States defeated the Netherlands in the 2019 World Cup final, Foudy, now an ESPN analyst, told Sports Illustrated: “I think this is a team that, overall, is the best we have seen. “. Foudy was a key player for the 99ers, a tireless midfielder who made 274 appearances and scored 45 goals.

However, to complete the mission, this USWNT must secure the Olympic gold medal available in the final on August 5 at Tokyo National Stadium. It has often been mentioned that no team won Olympic gold immediately after a World Cup victory. But the 99ers won a World Cup following an Olympic gold medal won in 1996 with essentially the same lineup.

Within those three years, they built the model for each iteration of the USWNT that followed.

However, this is the opportunity for the 2019 world champions to become something more.

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