The National Women's Hockey League continues its offseason with numerous player signings, its first international draft and several front office moves. In case you've missed anything over the last few weeks, let's take a look at what's happened in the league.
USA 2-1 France
Le Grand Match is over and we survived! The returning champions and the home team battled it out in front of an electric crowd at the Parc des Princes, and Megan Rapinoe further cemented herself as an American treasure, netting both the USWNT's goals.
France out-possessed and outshot the USWNT, and Wendie Renard headed a set piece past Alyssa Naeher in the 81st minute to get one back for Les Bleues, and France should have received a penalty opportunity off a handball, but it wasn't enough to prevent the US from taking the W and knocking the host squad out.
What We Learned:
- Not a Damn Thing, and That's Okay: This was one of the best matches of the tournament and a perfect distillation of everything we already knew.
We knew that officiating in this tournament has been abysmal, and no matter who you were cheering for today, both sides were met with dubious calls – Tobin Heath's crafty goal was deemed offside, and officials waved off a penalty France should have received for a Kelley O'Hara handball.
We knew both these squads were excellent. We knew the fans would bring it. We knew Jill Ellis sometimes makes questionable roster decisions. We knew Wendie Renard is good at headers. We knew Megan Rapinoe is a goddamn inspiration.
- Crystal Dunn: For all the criticism about Jill Ellis playing Dunn at left back, including from me, she delivered today. She was tasked with defending against one of the best wingers in the world, Kadidiatou Diani, who was on and all over the pitch today, and managed to calmly and consistently contain her. Dunn gets it, well, you know.
- Alyssa Naeher: The USWNT back four looked better today than they did during the Spain bout, with Crystal Dunn and Becky Sauerbrunn showing up. But it was Naeher, cool and collected in the biggest match of her career, who came up with some big saves and kept the sheet clean save for a perfectly-struck Renard header. Also, did you know she plays for the Chicago Red Stars? She plays for the Chicago Red Stars.
- Kadidiatou Diani: Diani's matchup with Crystal Dunn was one of the most engaging stories within this match. Many of Les Bleues' reliable attacking powers – Le Sommer, Gauvin – fell short today, but Diani showed creativity, versatility, plus the work rate of Elizabeth Warren's policy team, challenging Dunn every step of the way. They just both rule so much.
- Amandine Henry: O Captain, My Captain! Consistency, thy name is Amandine Henry. She’s hardworking, reliable and always exactly where she needs to be, and that was as true today as ever.
- Megan Rapinoe: A brace, a flourish of confidence, a cry of "Go Gays!" at the end. Leadership on and off the pitch. I would follow Megan Rapinoe to the ends of the earth if she asked me. I would catch a grenade for her.
- Cheers to Stephanie Yang for getting Pinoe to say "Gay Rights" in the mixed zone. It'swhat we all deserve.
- Jeers to Alexi Lalas for his cringey bit about donning a wedding gown in front of the Eiffel Tower if the USWNT won. Nothing kills a party like casual misogyny and transphobia, and on a day where we were celebrating the accomplishments of one of America's most outspoken and successful queer athletes, it's a stark and shitty reminder of how far we have to go. We don't need Alexi Lalas energy during Pride Month or ever.
Heartbreak for Les Bleues, who were easily one of the best squads in this tournament, and will now miss out on the 2020 Olympics as well. They were a joy to watch, and we hope you'll watch these talented players in the D1 Féminine next season, but mostly Lyon.
The USWNT gets a few short recovery days before they face a strong England side in the semifinal on Tuesday. Having Becky Sauerbrunn back in form after today will be some relief as the squad faces one of the most formidable attacks in the tournament – Ellen White And Nikkita Parris certainly looked unbeatable against Norway.
The results of this next match will either be a moment of validation for Jill Ellis or Phil Neville, and are we truly ready for that?
Filed under: 2019 women's world cup; soccer; team france; team usa; megan rapinoe; crystal dunn; alyssa naeher; kadidiatou diani; amandine henry
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