2011 Top Ten: USWNT

This one wasn’t hard to pick. If you have a pulse you have to know something about what happened in Germany this summer. No, we didn’t win Gold. I had a Disappointment Hangover™ for a week after that. Can’t imagine how the players felt. I think there are a few reasons this World Cup was particularly compelling to me though.

The Brazil game. It reminded me of the USMNT’s game that got them into the final 16. Obviously our ladies are much better than them and were only playing Brazil in the first place because they screwed up in an earlier game, but it was similar in the fact the reffing was dubious, all of twitter was getting worked up over it, and it took an improbable series of heroic events to go in our favor. Playing Brazil is always exciting. Hope vs Marta. Hope being the ultimate cock-block in that Brazil just can’t win when it counts if she is in the goal. Love Marta, but if she never wins anything in her career I’d only be shedding crocodile tears.

Everything happened in this game. Dubious reffing. Brazil’s own goal…evened out when Hope stopped a PK…only for it to be called encroachment by Rampone and then completed with Marta who stepped in for the rekick. Hope’s yellow card and Marta’s offsides goal catching the linesman looking the other way. All of Brazil’s flopping and diving (though they don’t come close to the theatrics of an average men’s team), the stretcher incident that resulted in extra time being put on, the full length movement of the ball in extra time to Rapinoe, the cross, and the header. Celebrating. Then Hope getting her PK. Brazil’s keeper being so hilariously off her line every single time. Makes you appreciate how good Hope’s form is in comparison. Krieger sealing the deal. Oh, and celebrating. Love celebrating in soccer. Never understood why American Football fines for that. You should be allowed to have joy.

The Japan Game. I am not going to ever say they deserved it more because of ______. If you saw how hard our WNT trained, especially those playing through extreme pain like Hope (shoulder) and Abby (achilles), you should never be able to say an unrelated natural disaster makes one team more deserving. Hey, we had two months of horrific tornado terror, oil spills, wild fires, hurricanes…nature took a beating and gave a beating. It really is immaterial though.

Both teams deserved a chance to win. Only only one team could win. That night it was Japan. They took advantage of every inch we gave them. We hit a bunch off of the cross bar. Hope took a friendly fire cleat to her knee. Our PK takers whiffed. Otherwise we played brilliantly. It was the best possession game I have ever seen us play. Had we finished even half of our gimmies in the first half that were unforced errors we should have been up 3-4. We beat ourselves on that count.

To Japan’s credit they stuck with it and more than capitalized on the few real mistakes we made. Clearing a ball across our own goal? Abby deflecting a corner kick so Hope was out of position to save it. Those things alone wouldn’t have killed us, but Japan made the correct play each time in response. 19 times out of 20 we beat them but they are all professionals so all you have to do is give them some daylight and you are screwed. The only thing I really hated about this game, besides the loss of course, was the red card just out side of the box. We had them beat and the only way to stop our scoring was a red card type play. That uglied up an otherwise beautiful game. Never going to forget that.

Social media. They broke twitter records against competition like the Royal Wedding. Hope Solo was in the Top Ten sports figures searched for this year and that was for more than just the US. tumblr happened. All the video leading up to the World Cup. Rapinoe’s hair. Hope Solo finally getting the recognition she should have gotten years ago. The ladies got a hero welcome.

People wonder why, but why isn’t hard to figure out. Look at our country? We are in the middle of a recession. Elections are starting up. Unemployment in my city is in the top ten of the country. The notion of trying your hardest despite all odds, despite injuries, despite losing (face it, how they handled the loss was amazing) is something most people here get. The final results didn’t diminish their sacrifice to those watching. It isn’t like we don’t remember who won in the end. We value the journey. The journey is where your real character shows and that’s what should be celebrated.

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