Closing time: The Americans face the Netherlands
Is President Trump a closet soccer fan?
Special to the Daily
Time for the closer, ladies.
Ram the ramparts, take over the airports and do whatever you have to do. This morning, we want the Star-Spangled Banner to wave defiantly as the United States takes on the Netherlands in the women’s World Cup Final at 9 a.m. on Fox.
Some of you didn’t realize on July Fourth that the peculiar speech given by our president was actually a coded message to US coach Jill Ellis about how to set up her attack.
Of course, we took over the airports against the British on Tuesday. Why, in the semifinal, Christen Press and Alex Morgan scored with headers vs. England. What did you think he was talking about?
The message was a tactical one, overload the wings, get Kelley O’Hara, Tobin Heath, Press, Lindsay Horan, Crystal Dunn, and Meghan Rapinoe — actually, our group was speculating that POTUS had ordered the Press for Rapinoe sub during the semifinal — to bombard the Dutch from the air and get Morgan, Julie Ertz and the rest in the middle of the field to ram the ramparts and get on the end of it.
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It was perfectly clear if you just listened.
Consistency is an incredibly hard thing to maintain, just ask the German men who were defending champions but beaten by Mexico and knocked out in the group phase of the 2018 World Cup.
Steph Curry saw what happens when the fan base starts to think athletic events are preordained or easy. As we saw in the NBA Finals, injuries, luck and the rise of another team peaking at the right time can derail the best-laid plans and the strongest teams.
Even on our high school level, the best teams falter if they aren’t on their game. The Battle Mountain boys soccer team has won four league titles in a row on three occasions but has never been able to win five. Maybe this year.
Complacency is a human trait that is difficult to avoid.
All of which goes to show how remarkable this run has been for the United States. They have been in three finals in a row in a competition which only occurs every four years.
Think of the concentration, luck with injuries and superb preparation that goes into a run like that. Lindsay Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin have expressed on social media their best wishes and few athletes, apart from them, would know what it takes.
We must tip our hats to the players who played in all three finals, the 2-2 draw with Japan in 2011 — the Japanese won on penalties — the 5-2 shellacking payback in 2015 in Canada and this morning’s game.
Rapinoe, if healthy enough to start after sitting out the semifinal, will be the only player to have started all three finals. Carli Lloyd started and missed a penalty in the 2011 shootout loss before roaring back with a hat trick four years later.
Today, Lloyd looks set to play the aging superstar, the closer role that Abby Wambach played with such dignity in 2015. Heath and Morgan were young substitutes in 2011 before starting in 2015 and should be in the lineup again in 2019. Ali Krieger played late in the semifinal this week and hopes to appear as a sub in the final after starting in both 2011 and 2015.
The Netherlands are the champions of Europe, crowned in 2017 and will be looking to collect more than just appearance bonuses in this final.
The US will have to be aware of the potent attacking players the Dutch possess. The Netherlands’ route to the final has been far easier than the US’. Japan gave them a great game in the round of 16, but if the Japanese were honest, they put their team together with an eye towards hosting the Olympics next summer more than winning this event.
Netherlands faced upstarts Italy in the quarterfinal to acclimate themselves to playing a team whose men hadn’t qualified in the 2018 men’s World Cup in case they met the US in the final.
Then they played a relative sleeper of a semifinal against Sweden which wasn’t easy on the eyes if a viewer had watched the fireworks the day before between the US and England.
Our route, by contrast, has been brutal. After racking up the goals in an easy group, the US faced a Spanish team that has recently put resources into the women’s game and who looked very strong, falling 2-1 on two Rapinoe penalties.
In the quarters, the US dispatched the host country on another pair of Rapinoe strikes. We sat Rapinoe in the semifinal for one of several possible reasons:
• The aforementioned executive order from the White House.
• To increase the degree of difficulty.
• To rest Rapinoe for the final.
• To shore up the left side of our team defensively.
• To give Press a chance to play.
• Or maybe she really had a hamstring injury.
Whatever the reason, we hope to see her back for the final.
Let’s hope that the style that the US employs late in the game is a little more attack oriented. Taking the ball to the corner, time wasting and drawing fouls intentionally to run the clock down has been the hallmark of this US team in the last 15 minutes of each knockout game that they have played.
While this tactic has been effective, most fans would rather see them possess the ball and go for that additional goal to kill the game off. Not only have these tactics resembled the men’s game, but they are more like what a team does at the end of a game where they are pulling off an unlikely win against a better opponent.
We are the favorites. Let’s finish off this last game with a bit more swagger.
A world for goalie Alyssa Naher is due here. After a diving save to tip one over the bar, earlier in the game, perhaps the save of the tournament, Alyssa dove to her right to stop English captain Steph Houghton’s penalty kick.
Saving PK’s requires poise, patience and a bit of luck, but as the Grateful Dead sang in “U.S. Blues,” “Ain’t no luck, I learned to duck.”
Speaking of the Grateful Dead, Morgan caused more controversy with her alleged tea toast to the English after scoring the winning goal, although we have to ask Morgan for a clarification of her intentions on that celebration.
Many of us in Colorado saw it as a tribute to our state, err, flower and a salute to the immaculate chipped pass from Golden’s Horan. One can only imagine what she has in store for the Dutch and the Amsterdam cafe culture.
Whatever you have to do Alex, whatever you have to do. ”Summertime’s done, come and gone, my oh my!”
Battle Mountain social-studies teacher and soccer coach David Cope watches far too much soccer, quotes The Grateful Dead or Bruce Springsteen too much and hopes his Huskies can win that elusive fifth league title this fall.
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