They Gave it Their All: Positives of the USWNT's Heartbreaking World Cup Exit
They gave it their all.
When the United States left the field after being eliminated from the World Cup in the round of 16, there wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that those players left it all on the pitch. Between 90 minutes of regulation, two 15-minute periods of extra time, and a heartbreaking penalty shootout, the US. women's national team (USWNT) poured their hearts into this match with a performance that fans should be proud of.
There's no argument to be made that this was their best tournament. After stumbling through the group stages and finishing second for the first time since 2011, it was clear that something needed to change. And change it did. Taking to the field with a renewed sense of vigor, this team should be proud of returning to their American roots by achieving an epic comeback performance.
They cut through Sweden like butter for all of regulation play, carving up the midfield with the implementation of a new double pivot between Andi Sullivan and Emily Sonnett. This change was forced by the lack of Rose Lavelle, who was out for this match on yellow card accumulation. Although having Lavelle surely would’ve made a difference, the United States looked like a team for the first time all tournament. This was their most complete performance with more accurate passes in this game than accurate passes against the Netherlands and Portugal combined.
They showed more grit and fire on the field than they’ve had in months, reveling in the chance to take down one of their oldest foes. Trinity Rodman had an incredible game, especially considering she missed some training this week for feeling under the weather. Rodman still played 66 minutes during which she had two shots on goal that will surely be shown in highlight reels as she continues on with this team for many years to come.
Lindsey Horan had her own incredible looks at goal, with a header that came within inches of getting the States on the board. Rodman had two rockets at goal, with all the credit to Sweden’s keeper, Zećira Mušović, who had 11 saves throughout the course of the game. Alex Morgan got in on the action better late than never with a sweet tap towards the corner but couldn’t sneak it in. Sullivan was the highest-rated player on the field for the United States, making her penalty kick and controlling the game tempo with her new midfield partner in Sonnett.
After 120 minutes of regulation time, the whistle blew for the most dreaded part of a World Cup knockout game, penalty kicks. Even the brilliance of Alyssa Naeher couldn’t save the United States from being eliminated, quite literally inches away from making it. Naeher had been incredible the whole match, and that continued into the penalty kicks where she both made a save and scored for her country.
This team gave everything, through sweat and tears they persevered, and in the end, it just wasn’t enough this time. The United States will return home after their earliest World Cup exit ever, hopefully with some peace knowing their final match was one to remember.
*All statistics from FotMob*