The USWNT plays China today in the quarterfinals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Ottawa. With the yellow card suspensions to both Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, prognosticators seem to be down on the US.
Rapinoe is our MVP. Though Solo is incomparable, the backline the strength of the team and the forward position stacked, Megan Rapinoe, is the franchise. Holiday has been doing yeoman’s work for the USWNT since 2011, but her star really ascended last year in the NWSL leading FCKC to the championship (over Pinoe’s Seattle’s Reign). Missing both will hurt, as the midfield has been a mess.
I don’t know how the US will compensate. Jill Ellis has proven somewhat inscrutable with some of her roster and lineup decisions. We won’t be at our very best, but we should beat China. China hasn’t been that good for a long while. They are currently ranked 16th in the world and, other than memories of 1999, have been mostly irrelevant. And yet, pundits doubt the United States’ chances against China.
Whether they doubt or believe is irrelevant. The USWNT’s record stands alone: objective, excellent. The USA is the Brazil of women’s soccer. Winners in two of first three World Cups (and never off the podium), dominating the Olympics (always gold, except for silver in 2000) and the Algarve cup (10 championships, the record). These are the premier competitions for women’s soccer, and we just plain own.
Oddly, one of the only chants I heard in BC Place during the US-Nigeria game was the Nike-spawned “I believe. I believe that…” It was fun last summer for the USMNT. They stink. They’ve gotten better lately, serious contenders in CONCACAF, relevant on the world stage, and they have a plucky charm. But the men have only won 1 knockout game in the last 81 years. Contextually that chant doesn’t work with the USWNT.
Saying you merely believe the USWNT will win is at best, weak sauce; at worst, solipsist. The US should win. They have talent, infrastructure, culture and recent form on their side. I always assume they will win and when they don’t it’s an upset.
The chant “I believe that we will win” also puts all the agency on the fan, the I. It is weird to make you, the spectator, the subject of the chant. All you are doing is espousing the virtues of your faith. Okay? Traditionally chants are imperatives, exhorting the home team to excellence: “Let’s go Cubbies” or “Fight and win!” These women don’t need your faith. They have proven, time and again, their championship bona fides: Wambach’s header against Brazil in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Cup, Morgan’s ice-cold strike in stoppage time of extra time against Canada in the semis of the 2012 Olympics. They don’t need us, we are along for the ride/
Bold Prediction: If China bunkers and the US flounders, this game may be ugly. I am worried about Wambach’s minutes, but this game should be key for her. We can win if we pump crosses into the box and hope to find Abby’s towering noggin. This is the style of play that has been cheesing me off lately, but should work against China: USA 1-0.