2015 WWC: Three Stars for the Red White and Blue: United States 5 – 2 Japan

7 Jul

megan-rapinoe-ftr-070515_b10e7dahqqfv13p6wmlnxdj0xI’m going to apologize from the get-go but this post is going to be a serious lovefest. I’m beyond thrilled that the World Cup trophy has come back to the States after a sixteen-year drought. And what a final! After a disheartening conversation with some guys about how women’s soccer was boring, Carli Lloyd’s fifteen-minute response was music to my ears. If this is boring, I’ll take it!

Honestly, it was no surprise that the United States was going to come out strong against Japan in this match. The memories from four years ago were just too fresh to expect anything different. What was a surprise was the confusion by the Japanese defense that just crumbled beneath the juggernaut that was Carli Lloyd.

Normally one would think a comment like two goals in five minutes would be an exaggeration. Not this day. Early set pieces in the 3rd and 5th minute resulted in goals. Take a look:


Ten minutes later, Tobin Heath had a great run and had a shot that was poorly cleared by the Japanese keeper, Kaihori and found Lauren Holiday who made quick work of it

And then…I can’t even talk about this…Carli Lloyd…

And yes, I have to share this…its even better with Andres Cantor with the call

In case you’ve lost count, the US were up by 4 by the 17th minute.

You’d be forgiven if you thought it was game over. But while the Japanese were having the worst game imaginable, they did not give up. At all. And that helped in the 27th minute when Ogimi caught the US defense napping and scored, keeping the US from breaking the shut out record by seconds.

Japan made two substitutions just after the half hour mark. Normally I love watching Homare Sawa and it was expected that she’d make an appearance in her last World Cup performance after an impressive 6 World Cups. But the circumstances were heartbreaking. Sawa came in for an absolutely devastated Iwashimizu. I can’t bear to share the pictures of her heartbreak.

Three minutes later, Sugasawa came in for Kawasumi. Sawa made her presence felt immediately in commanding the midfield but a Japanese handball in the 40th minute just emphasized the desperate need for triage. The United States had become rather complacent at the end of the half and the Japanese team on other days could have made them pay.

The second half saw some promising play by both sides. Morgan Brian forced a good save by Kaihori but Japan capitalized first. Homare Sawa battled with Julie Johnston for the ball and Johnston ended up flicking it into her own net.

However, the United States regained their focus with an immediate goal of their own by Tobin Heath. Morgan Brian was busy again on the far post and Tobin Heath was able to clean up a poor clearance.

worldcup(6)Birthday Girl Megan Rapinoe came out for Kelley O’Hara in the 60th minute who nearly had an immediate goal but the shot went well over the net.

Abby Wambach came in for Heath in the 76th minute and received the expected warm reception from the hugely US crowd. A couple classy acts soon followed.

Captain Carli Lloyd insisted that Wambach take the armband for the rest of the match.

in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada.

in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada.

It was also beautiful to see two warriors greet each other when Sawa immediately high-fived her one time teammate and current opponent, Abby Wambach. But that was momentary as Sawa got caught on a couple fouls on Abby and even got a card on one of them.

Homare+Sawa+USA+v+Japan+Final+FIFA+Women+World+-qvmYYy4Wn1lAnd to finish off the night, Christie Rampone, age 40, was the final substitute for the US. A long time captain of the team, it seemed right but there was also a bit of discussion about the lack of women of color on the field and that this was a missed opportunity. While I’m thrilled for Rampone, the last of the 99ers, I think the need for more diversity on the US team is a strong one. I hope that the dynamic Sydney Leroux will inspire more women of color and help the US coaching staff recognize how important it is for the team to represent all American women. JMHO

Meanwhile, the Japanese women deserve huge credit for their class and dignity and most importantly, for their work rate. They never gave up. While the first half was a complete nightmare for them, Sawa, Miyama, Ogimi and the rest did not stop fighting until the final whistle. I have every expectation that the Japanese will come back stronger from this and we will continue to battle them in years to come.

The final whistle came and my favorite moment of the night occurred when Abby Wambach sprinted over to celebrate with her wife Sarah Huffman. A wonderful example of why marriage equality is so important!

And also serious kudos to the dual trophy lift by long time captain Christie Rampone and legend Abby Wambach. I will sincerely miss them both!

foi-wom-usa-v-japan_-final-fifa-womens-world-cup-2015_1A quick note of thanks to Lozil for allowing me to help her cover this tournament. I loved every minute of it and look forward to 2019 in France!

Here are some highlights and some celebrations:


Line ups

United States:

Solo, Krieger, Sauerbrunn, Johnston, Klingenberg, Holiday, Brian, Lloyd (captain), Rapinoe (O’Hara), Morgan (Rampone), Heath (Wambach)


Kaihori, Iwashimizu (Sawa), Kumagai, Sameshima, Sakaguchi, Miyama, Kawasumi (Sugasawa), Ohno (Iwabuchi), Utsugi, Ogimi, Ariyoshi

Attendance: 53,341 Vancouver


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