USA 2-1 England
I am pretty sure the pace of this match was being controlled by J.K. Simmons as that scary conductor in that jazz movie, who saw the opening passes, slammed his fist into the wall and screamed "THAT’S NOT MY TEMPO!" What ensued following was chaotic, thrilling, and sometimes messy; a brilliant clash between two of the strongest sides at the Women'sWorld Cup. I could practically feel Phil Neville's nervous sweats through his waistcoat. I need a cigarette and half a day in a sensory deprivation tank.
With injury concerns for Megan Rapinoe and Lucy Bronze in form, Jill Ellis made the call to swap her out for Christen Press, who got the job done and opened the scoring on a roaring Kelley O’Hara serve. Ellen White did Ellen White things and netted the equalizer nine minutes later, followed by Alex Morgan scoring the customary Birthday Goal in the 31st minute and celebrating by miming sipping tea. White almost had a thunderous second equalizer but it was called a hair offside. The Lionesses had a second opportunity in the closing minutes after a late penalty call on a Becky Sauerbrunn tackle in the box, but Alyssa Naeher saved the match and the day, sending the USWNT to the final for the third straight World Cup.
What We Learned:
- No Fun to Be Alone: Sports Twitter is by and large an awful, belching maw where fans feast upon bad takes and wipe their dripping chins with "SATURDAYS ARE FOR THE BOYS" banners. Women's World Cup Twitter is, save for the trolls and Trump stans who just remembered that women's soccer exists, an exuberant delight on days like this. Half of it is nuanced, thoughtful commentary that takes matters on and off the pitch into context, and the other half is "CHRISTEN PRESS RUN ME OVER." I'm glad we all got to experience this together.
- Rose Lavelle: Soccer giveth, and soccer taketh away. After an unusually rocky performance against France, Lavelle returned full-speed-ahead, nutmegging English defenders in the first few minutes and destroying one of the toughest back fours in the tournament. She went down in the second half and indicated it was a hamstring injury, which is not ideal for anyone, let alone going into the final, but we hope she's okay.
- Alyssa Naeher, again: Once again, Naeher makes the biggest save of her career and once again, she makes it look easy. After Becky Sauerbrunn's tackle conceded a late penalty call, Naeher lunged for the shot from Steph Houghton and saved us all from another 45 minutes of chaos, probably.
- Jill Scott, and, Generally, The England Midfield: Apologies to everyone on Twitter who thought the American R&B singer of the same name was releasing new music and was disappointed to find out we were all talking about soccer. England's midfield gave the USWNT defense headache after headache, creating as much space as they needed and leveling perfect balls in for Ellen White and friends to convert.
- Lucy Bronze is just. So. Fast.
- Thank you to Alex Morgan for giving us the most eminently usable GIF of the tournament.
- Get yourself someone who loves and supports you and hypes you the way Sue Bird hypes Megan Rapinoe.
- Did anyone else hear one of the bands playing "Over There"? Anyway, there's been a lot of war imagery (especially Revolutionary War) around this match, and honestly let's just replace all wars with hotly anticipated soccer matches. But also maybe cool it a bit with the militarism in international soccer matches?
- Is it just me or was Abby Dahlkemper's free kick just before halftime the first time these commentators have mentioned that the NWSL is a thing you can watch a lot of these players in? Anyway, you can watch a whole lot of these players in the NWSL. Sometimes we even write about it on this very website!
Oh man, oh man. It may be the third place match on Saturday, and Millie Bright may be suspended, but glad we get to see this England squad play one more. Lucy Bronze, Ellen White, and Nikita Parris have been among the tournament's best players and this team has been such a joy to watch. Phil Neville notwithstanding, congratulations on a hell of a run. (Also, Piers Morgan's day was totally ruined, which is a net positive.)
The United States will play in the Women's World Cup final match for the third consecutive tournament on Sunday, against the winner of tomorrow's Netherlands/Sweden matchup. The USWNT is a favorite, but does not go into their final match unscathed, with injury concerns about Megan Rapinoe, and now, Rose Lavelle.
And we will need to talk about what happens after this tournament, win or lose, for the future of women's soccer in the U.S. and around the world. Sustaining domestic leagues, properly supporting women's national teams and, in the case of the United States, restructuring the youth soccer experience to get rid of the racist, classist "pay to play" model and to give more girls and gender diverse kids access to the Beautiful Game.