The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carli Lloyd and the U.S. women golf-clap back at critics of their celebrations

Carli Lloyd sends a message by celebrating with a display more suitable to a golf course than a soccer stadium. (Thibault Camus/Associated Press)

Carli Lloyd started the scoring in the U.S.-Chile World Cup game Sunday with an absolute missile of a goal, and then she celebrated with a gesture more suited to Pebble Beach than a soccer stadium in Paris.

Mindful of the controversy that engulfed the U.S. team after it repeatedly and joyfully celebrated goal after goal after goal in a 13-0 shellacking of Thailand last week, Lloyd and her teammates exchanged hugs and congratulations.

But then Lloyd and Lindsey Horan did something else — and it sent a message to all of their critics. They raised their hands to chin level and offered a genteel golf clap.

Women’s World Cup advancement scenarios come into focus at end of group stage

“I can’t take credit for it. I’m not sure if Lindsey is taking credit for it,” said Lloyd, after the U.S. clinched a berth in the round of 16 with a dominant 3-0 win over Chile. “She had told me if we score, that’s what we’re going to do, so I just went along with it after I did my little celebration, but it was fun. I think it made a statement on the sideline there. It was cool.”

With that tally, Lloyd became the first player to score a goal in six straight Women’s World Cup games, and she wasn’t done.

In case the point was missed, Lloyd, who is married to golf pro Brian Hollins, repeated the golf clap after scoring her second goal of the match, too.

Message received.

“The whole team is having fun with this,” Alex Morgan admitted.

Horan credited Emily Sonnett with the idea to troll the scolds. “We decided to do something different today,” Horan said. “Handshakes were part of it. Golf clap was part of it.”

U.S. soccer cruises past Chile, points toward tougher World Cup tests

Perhaps that was the best way to send a message after tongues were set wagging over the American players’ celebrations late in the rout against Thailand. That criticism, some argued, demonstrated an uneven playing field for women.

“The backlash to the final score — and the lopsided score itself — is a product of the way we treat women’s sports differently from men’s, Rachel Allison wrote for The Post. “Many of the traits valued in sports are violations of the qualities we expect women to embody. The result is that women athletes face a double standard: People still react negatively when women express the competitiveness and aggression that are routine in men’s sports.”

U.S. soccer beats Chile to reach World Cup knockout round

Some chalked up the celebrations to the Americans’ exuberance at winning the opener as they began defense of the Cup they won in 2015.

“I feel like we were pent up, and that sort of explosion of joy was very genuine,” Megan Rapinoe said.

Whatever it was, Lloyd, Horan and the gang displayed a great celebration Sunday, one that didn’t deepen an opponent’s humiliation and one that just might have put the whole controversy to rest.

Read more World Cup coverage:

Members of the U.S. women's national soccer team talk about their fight for gender equality ahead of the Women's World Cup in France. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Alex Morgan is the face of U.S. soccer and now its golden boot

Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle are best friends, roommates and now, World Cup goal-scorers

Did USWNT players celebrate their 13-0 win with too much gusto?

Women’s World Cup results, schedule and standings