The Beautiful Letdown

July 18, 2011

Shortly after Alex Morgan scored the first goal in the World Cup final on Sunday afternoon, the announcers on the radio started speculating on how a World Cup win for the United States would change her and several other U.S. players’ lives. As a famous personality in the “other” game of football would say, “not so fast, my friend”.

The United States did not “blow it”. Truthfully, they didn’t even lose what was theirs to win. They came out on the wrong side of a well played match, and unfortunately, it will haunt those women for the rest of their lives.

Penalty kicks are one of the most controversial ways to settle what is usually a great game before getting to that point. When every other sport is deadlocked at the end of a game, a winner is decided by playing the same or an extremely similar rendition of that game. In soccer, the guessing game between the goalie and the shot-taker assures that luck plays a large part in determining the outcome.

The issues with determining the winner of a game through a method that is not representative of the game as a whole does not serve as a crutch for the United States to lean on. Japan deserved to win the game just as much as the U.S. would have had they won. However, the buildup to that point was monumental. That three missed penalty kicks, after the memorable tournament starting with the victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals, may have derailed the chance for the team to elevate soccer in the United States, is a hard pill to swallow.

The higher you are, the more the fall hurts.

After the United States captured the 1999 World Cup title, the Women’s United Soccer Association was formed less than a year later. Although the league folded in 2003, it was a testament to the interest that the national team had garnered for the sport.

With the country already somewhat tuned in to this year’s World Cup (thanks in part to the 1999 team), another World Cup title could have been just what the relatively green WPS needed to survive longer than its predecessor. Currently, the league is struggling similarly, with two teams that played in the 2010 season folding before the 2011 campaign.

In addition to helping soccer grow in popularity, many of the players’ individual futures were altered as well. The announcers on the radio were correct; had the lead stood, Alex Morgan would have been the new face of U.S. women’s soccer. Young, talented and attractive, Morgan would have been a goldmine for endorsers, who have recently had trouble finding U.S. women in other sports that are recognizable, and thus marketable.

Hope Solo and Abby Wambach, already the faces of U.S. women’s soccer, each likely lost a golden opportunity to cement her legacy. Hamm and Chastain are household names. Once their careers are over, will Solo and Wambach be last names thrown around in which everyone will know exactly who is being discussed? Most readers will probably be surprised to learn that Wambach, not Hamm, is the all-time leader in goals scored for the U.S. national team. Unfortunately for Wambach, this isn’t baseball, and people only remember titles, not statistics.

The only thing the United States can do now is keep pushing, as Wambach did against Brazil. Luckily, it is far from the 122nd minute for this team. The Olympics is just around the corner, and the majority of this year’s roster will remain intact for that tournament. Also, women seem to have a unique longevity in sports as opposed to their male counterparts. It is entirely possible that Wambach, Solo, and some of the other veterans from this year’s team will be back in 2015.

The defeat was tough, and the climb back up the mountain for the United States will be a tough one. However, this team is a fighting bunch, and they won’t let this be the lasting memory of their squad. As coach Pia Sundhage simply put it, “we will be back.”

America knows, Pia. America knows, and they are awaiting the chance to tell the world that you couldn’t be more right.

– K. Becks

One Response to The Beautiful Letdown

  1. on July 19, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Well played, USA!…

    The US women played their hearts out against Japan and they were in long spells the better team. They lost to a cruel lottery of penalty kicks. Post match they showed their class. No grumbling. No wasted tears. As Hope Solo put it:”We lost to a great …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *