USWNT

Fans across the soccer world were angry with the USWNT for scoring and celebrating the 13 goals it recorded against Thailand.

Heading into the 2019 Women’s World Cup, many of the questions that surrounded the United States women’s national team were focused on whether or not the attack would stay consistent. Low-scoring games to start the calendar year against international powers left some people concerned about the U.S. with the World Cup looming.

In the first 90 minutes of the United States’ tournament, those skeptics were silenced.

The No. 1 team in the world put on a show, scoring 13 goals in its matchup with No. 34 Thailand. While the victory showed dominance and multiple options on the attack for the U.S., fans of the game were angry that the U.S. didn’t ease up on a team that clearly wasn’t on the same level as the stars and stripes.

While it may not be fun to watch a team like Thailand struggle and constantly concede goals, at an international tournament of this magnitude, it happens. The World Cup uses goal differential to break potential ties during the group stage. The United States may be heavily favored to win Group F this year, but a team can’t solely rely on being the favorite. There are teams like Sweden in the United States’ group that could easily come out on top.

Fans know that when it comes to sports, anything can happen — especially in a game like soccer. The game is, more often than not, a low scoring contest, so one missed save or a single bad call can significantly impact a game and which team advances out of the group stages at the World Cup.

Since Tuesday’s match, questions have risen about whether or not FIFA should enact a mercy rule to help prevent games like the U.S. vs. Thailand one from happening again. If something like a mercy rule is going to be introduced, FIFA needs to get rid of goal differential as a tiebreaker. It can’t be “Hey, score a bunch of goals so you’re good in case of a tie. Oh, but don’t score too many — we can’t have teams being embarrassed.”

It’s the World Cup, not a U-8 game.

In all honesty, having huge losses like 13-0 helps grow the game. There’s no denying there’s a gap between countries with powerhouse teams like the United States, Germany and France and nations like Thailand, which made its first World Cup appearance in 2015. The teams that consistently sit at the top of the FIFA rankings are the ones that are receiving more funding from their federation. Countries don’t want to endure losses like Thailand’s, and it could potentially fuel them to put more money into the women’s game in hopes of improving it in their respective country.

Another problem that arose from the United States’ first World Cup game this year was how each goal was celebrated. Former United States men’s national soccer team member Taylor Twellman didn’t have a problem with the scoreline of the contest, but he wasn’t thrilled watching his country celebrate after each score.

It’s important for people to understand that most of the players who scored in Tuesday’s contest have never been to the World Cup. Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis, Mallory Pugh and Lindsey Horan worked their entire lives to reach the pinnacle of soccer tournaments. They shouldn’t be chastised for celebrating the fact they’ve made it there and scored in their first appearance.

Even veterans like Alex Morgan, who scored five times Tuesday, had reason to celebrate. When Morgan netted her fifth goal of the game, the United States’ 12th of the evening, she tied a World Cup record for most goals in a single match. The record is as old as the Women’s World Cup with Michelle Akers setting the mark in 1991. Morgan matching that is something that should be commemorated no matter what the score is.

People quickly took to Twitter and called out U.S. winger Megan Rapinoe for sliding across the field after notching the United States’ eighth goal in the 79th minute. The fact many of Rapinoe’s critics pointed out was that she’s already been on the World Cup stage and scored in big moments. If that’s going to be used as an argument, then let’s have Tom Brady stop celebrating every time he throws a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. He’s recorded 18 in his career, so he shouldn’t need to throw his arms up in elation if he potentially throws his 19th.

Even after handing a team the largest defeat in World Cup history, the USWNT handled its win with grace. Morgan hugged a crying player and the rest of the U.S. players made their way around the field, stopping to shake everyone’s hand. Forward Carli Lloyd was quick to comfort Thailand’s goalkeeper and even offered words of encouragement on Twitter to the team.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating when a goal is scored. It’s a tournament that doesn’t happen every year, and a player doesn’t know when or if they’ll get another shot at it; Rapinoe is a good example of that. In between the 2015 Women’s World Cup and this year’s, Rapinoe suffered a torn ACL, and there was no guarantee that she’d make it back. And while she did make her third World Cup, at 33, this could very well be her final one — so let her celebrate.

There isn’t a kid who plays soccer that doesn’t imagine at least once what it’d be like to suit up in their nation’s colors and compete at the World Cup. The 23 women that make up this year’s U.S. roster have worked tirelessly to be there.

They deserve to score a goal or two and celebrate it without people complaining — they’ve earned it.

Contact Catie Harper at breezesports@gmail.com. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

Pat Summitt, Erin Andrews and Lindsay Czarniak were three names that inspired me growing up. Here I am now at JMU, Czarniak’s alma mater, taking steps to live out my dream. As Pat would say, “I’m going to keep on keepin’ on, I promise you that.”