Monday, July 11, 2011

True Heroines: USA Women Soccer

Abby and Megan!
“USA! USA!” chants filled the stadium Sunday night in Germany as ten Americans tried to do the impossible. Just twelve years ago, the American women captured the imagination of millions with their amazing journey to winning the World Cup. On that day's anniversary, once again our nation was in need of a miracle. This was more than just winning a game against a powerhouse like Brazil or keeping our hopes alive in attaining the most important trophy in women’s sports. No, this represented so much more. It represented the dedication for equality in the United States for both men and women. It represented the dedication of our educational system of Title 9, giving men and women sports equal funding. And once more, it showed our nation that women's sports can be exciting, thrilling, and downright amazing, inspiring millions of American girls to take pride in playing sports like soccer.

In Sunday’s game, we saw a team that represented everything the United States hopes to stand for. These ladies grew stronger when things stopped going their way, then believed more when they lost a player to a red card. There was no sense of self pity or blame when a saved penalty kick was called back because someone entered the box early, leading to the loss of their one goal lead. There was no quitting in their eyes when Martha, the best women’s soccer player in the world put in a stunning goal at the start of extra time. Instead, these heroines kept fighting, and never doubted themselves and their ability to come back with fewer legs on the field but clearly more heart. It was amazing how the mood of the stadium changed when a Brazilian player decided to display poor sportsmanship by faking an injury in an attempt to delay the game and waste precious seconds of time to help Brazil escape with a victory. The mostly German audience suddenly became pro-American and joined the scattered American fans in cheering on the US team. That stunt by Brazil led to 3 minutes of additional time, which made all the difference.

Megan Rapinoe ran down the left side knowing it would be one of the final chances of tying this game. She let a beautiful cross soar towards the back post where a flying Abby Wamback came sailing in, heading the ball right into the back of the net. There truly is no moment in sports like a soccer goal, the anticipation, the build up, and finally the ball in net that sparks a burst of joy around the nation. I was sitting at Jonathan Mok’s house with him and his newlywed wife Ophelia, the day after their wedding day right before Peter drove them to the airport for their honeymoon. Abby tied the game at the 122 minute of the game with only seconds left. This is the moment sports fans live for and it led to us all jumping up, screaming, high fiving, and screaming again. By the way, CONGRATS MOK on a beautiful wedding!

How fitting was it for the United States to once again go to penalty kicks on June 10th. It was clear that the Americans were filled with confidence. There is something Hope Solo clearly has, and that is belief in herself. When the Brazilian goalie was called off the line and was forced to redo the penalty kick, there seemed to be small payback for the call against the United States at the 65th minute, or maybe the ref was just calling a tighter game because of the fake injury in extra time. Either way, America never missed after that, and Hope Solo made an amazing save, first shifting the right way before laying out the block on a well struck penalty that was clearly headed for the left inside netting of the goal. Next up came Megan Rapinoe, who many believed should not have been starting at all this World Cup, but after some injuries and line-up changes found herself as the pivotal kicker after a miss, which is key to keeping the momentum. She finished with ease and broke out into a playful celebration of relief and excitement with her tongue out and head wagging side to side. I'm not going to lie, I think I’m in love with Megan Rapinoe. Nothing against the beautiful Alex Morgan or swagger of Hope Solo, but dang Rapinoe, you just keep amazing me.

The final penalty was scored and although no clothing was removed and no cup was rewarded, this game could be one of the most memorable in United States history, the same way the Miracle on Ice was 31 years ago, which was also not the final game of the tournament. To make this truly special, our heroines must win two more games and become the World Cup winners once again. So good luck girls. You have made a believer in me and the rest of the nation. I guess Nike didn't lie. Pressure really makes them. But for our well-being, please win the next two before the clock strikes 90...


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