By Steven Goff in Decines-Charpieu, France
For four years, the jersey worn by the U.S. women’s national soccer team has featured three blue stars above the logo, signifying the World Cup championships won across almost three decades.
On Sunday, as the players danced and hugged amid confetti and celebration following a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands, they were handed new shirts made especially for the occasion.
And above the crest — and over their hearts — sat a gold star, recognition of what they had accomplished over four incredible weeks in France and over 90 difficult minutes in front of a sold-out crowd of 57,900 at Stade de Lyon.
“To see us four years ago go from two to three [stars] and now three to four,” forward Alex Morgan said, “it’s really a dream come true.”
The U.S. team has been the beacon for the women’s game, both on and off the field. But until this day, it had never won consecutive world crowns. Four years after lifting the trophy in Canada, the Americans retained the title by scoring twice in an eight-minute span of the second half.
Returning from injury, Megan Rapinoe recorded her sixth goal ― tied with her teammate Morgan and England’s Ellen White for the tournament lead ― on a penalty kick in the 61st minute. Rose Lavelle, a breakout star from the Washington Spirit, scored a terrific goal in the 69th as the United States completed the tournament with seven victories in seven matches.
Rapinoe, an outspoken figure on issues ranging from politics to gender equality, won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s top player.
“I am made for this. I love it,” she said. “To be able to couple it with everything off the field and to back up those words with performances, it’s just incredible. I feel like this team is changing the world around us.”
This championship adds to a portfolio of glory featuring world crowns in 1991, 1999 and 2015 and Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012. Germany is the only other country to win multiple Women’s World Cups.
A victory parade will take place Wednesday on the streets of Manhattan.
The Americans have won 13 straight matches and are unbeaten in 16 since losing a friendly at France in January.
Jill Ellis, a native of England who starred at Fairfax County’s Robinson Secondary School and William & Mary, became the first coach to win two Women’s World Cup titles. The only time it has occurred on the men’s side was in 1934 and 1938, by Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo.
The championship was redemptive for both Ellis and her players, who in 2016 lost in the quarterfinals of the Olympics, their earliest elimination in a major tournament.
“I knew after 2016, we had to deconstruct it and reconstruct it,” Ellis said. “That’s what I shared with my bosses [at the U.S. Soccer Federation], and they bought into it.
“To get to this point and see the validation of that and the trust in the players who came through it, it speaks for itself.”
It did not come easy. The Netherlands, appearing in its second World Cup, thwarted the Americans in the first half and created danger of its own. The United States was the better team, but the score did not reflect it until the second half.
The Netherlands was physical and unafraid. Unlike the previous six matches, the United States failed to score in the first dozen minutes.
The United States probed for ways to unlock the Dutch defense but ran into firm road blocks. The challengers also applied pressure on the ball in midfield, resulting in wayward passes and giveaways.
When the Americans did create opportunities, goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal made terrific saves.
Ellis said she told her team at halftime, “At some point, it’s going to break and it’s going to break our way, whether that is through a penalty kick or through a set piece or in transition.”
It did with a penalty kick, which was awarded via video replay.
In challenging Morgan in the penalty area, Stefanie van der Gragt raised her right foot and caught the U.S. player in the upper right arm. Morgan went down.
French referee Stephanie Frappart did not whistle a foul, but as the United States prepared for a corner kick, Carlos del Cerro Grande, the video assistant referee, recommended a review.
Frappart returned from the sideline with the verdict: penalty kick.
As van Veenendaal leaned one way, Rapinoe delivered the other way. She celebrated with her iconic pose, arms outstretched on an angle and a smile for the crowd.
“Of course, it was a turning point,” said Dutch Coach Sarina Wiegman, who had not seen a replay of the decisive foul immediately after the game. “It was disappointing to us.”
Eight minutes later, Lavelle extended the lead. The Dutch defense parted, and the slight midfielder took full advantage.
She surged into an acre of space, forcing van der Gragt off balance before veering to her left and stamping a left-footed shot from 17 yards, out of van Veenendaal’s reach and into the far corner.
“Over the course of the game, it was hard to find that kind of space,” said Lavelle, 24. “Finally, there was an opportunity to take space. I decided to go for it. … I like my left foot, man, and I got it on my left foot.”
With the Dutch pressing forward, the United States had ample opportunity to turn the match into a rout. However, the touch inside the box was off, and van Veenendaal continued her excellent work.
Rapinoe left to a roaring ovation in the 79th minute. Carli Lloyd, the hat-trick hero of the 2015 final in Vancouver who will turn 37 this month, entered in the waning moments.
All that was left to do was wait for Frappart’s closing whistle and commence a celebration four years in the making.
“I feel like we did the impossible today and this past month and these past couple years,” said defender Kelley O’Hara, who exited at halftime after a head-to-head collision. “I’m so proud of this team. It’s a testament to how dedicated everyone is. You can want to win a World Cup, but winning one is a different story.”
by Emily Giambalvo in Chicago
Final: USA 2, Netherlands 0
The United States defended its Women’s World Cup title and won it for a record fourth time overall. It caps a dominant showing by the U.S. women, whose performance in France sparked larger conversations about gender, equity and patriotism.
The underdog Dutch were playing in just their second World Cup and had never reached the final.
87th minute: U.S. substitution
Carli Lloyd replaces Tobin Heath.
Lavelle’s goal sets mark
79th minute: Rapinoe comes off
Megan Rapinoe, who missed the last game with a hamstring injury only to score the opening goal of this final, subs out of the game late in the second half. Christen Press replaces Rapinoe, who will finish this tournament with six goals, tied for the overall lead, and three assists.
77th minute: Dutch shot on goal
The Netherlands records its first shot on target with a shot from Lineth Beerensteyn from outside the box, forcing U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to make her first save of the final. Naeher began the tournament as one of the questions about this U.S. team. But she has impressed in key moments during this World Cup, most notably when she saved England’s 84th-minute penalty kick that would have tied the semifinal game.
76th minute: Scoring chance for Dunn
American defender Crystal Dunn cuts around a Dutch defender for an opportunity to score, but goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal comes up with another stop. Van Veenendaal has saved six U.S. shots, but she’ll need help from the Dutch attack for the Netherlands to threaten the Americans’ 2-0 lead.
73rd minute: Dutch substitution
Shanice van de Sanden comes into the game for Anouk Dekker.
70th minute: Dutch substitution
Jill Roord replaces Lieke Martens, the forward who dealt with a toe injury before this game and was part of a head-to-head collision late in the first half.
69th minute: Goal, USA
Rose Lavelle scores to extend the Americans’ lead. Lavelle split two defenders with her shot that sailed just to the right of goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal. Lavelle, 24, has scored three times in her first World Cup.
61st minute: Goal, USA
Megan Rapinoe nails her shot from the penalty spot. The U.S. leads, 1-0. Rapinoe sent the ball to the right while Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal crouched toward the left.
The Americans received the penalty after video review in the 60th minute after Alex Morgan was hit on the shoulder by Stefanie van der Gragt, who was given a yellow card.
Rapinoe has six goals in this tournament, five of which have come in the knockout round. This is her third goal of the tournament on a penalty kick. The U.S. has scored the first goal in every World Cup match, while the Netherlands trails for the first time in France. Its scoreless streak ends at 317 minutes.
57th minute: Sauerbrunn returns
The defender was bandaged and medically cleared and has returned to the game.
54th minute: Sauerbrunn is cut in collision
U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn is down on the field with blood running down her face after a head-to-head collision. The Americans are playing a man down while the medical staff tends to Sauerbrunn on the sideline but she has not been replaced.
Halftime substitution for U.S.
Ali Krieger is in the game in the place of Kelley O’Hara, who collided head-to-head with Lieke Martens late in the first half.
Krieger, who was also part of the 2011 and 2015 World Cup teams, hadn’t received a call-up to the national team for two years until this year’s preparation matches before the World Cup. Now she opens the second half as part of the Americans’ back line in the most important game of the tournament.
Halftime: USA 0, Netherlands 0
The teams head to the locker room after a scoreless first 45 minutes of play. The U.S. threatened with a handful of promising chances late in the half, but Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal had standout moments to thwart the American attack. Van Veenendaal notched four saves, three of which came in a three-minute span, to keep the Americans out of the net. Meanwhile, the Netherlands didn’t record a shot until stoppage time and had a few chances off a corner just before halftime. But the Dutch defense has shined, managing to keep this usually early-scoring U.S. team under control.
The Americans have led at halftime during every game in this World Cup except the round-of-16 match against Spain, when the teams opened the second half tied at 1. But in this final, the U.S. is facing a team that hasn’t conceded many goals in this World Cup and a goalkeeper who’s excelling. The Dutch have been a second-half team, having won all six of their matches after coming out of intermission tied in each.
45th minute + 2: A collision
During stoppage time, American defender Kelley O’Hara and Dutch forward Lieke Martens both went down to the turf after a head-to-head collision. The referee immediately signaled for medical attention, and both players were assessed on the field. Both players were held back from play for a moment but quickly returned. The Dutch put late pressure on the U.S. goal but the halftime whistle was blown shortly after
40th minute: Americans increase pressure
The U.S. just had a flurry of chances but couldn’t score. In the 38th minute, Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal saved a chance that Samantha Mewis tried to head in off Megan Rapinoe’s cross. Tobin Heath’s shot soon after was blocked. Moments later, Alex Morgan’s shot off a pass from Rapinoe landed in the lap of van Veenendaal, who notched two saves in the span of one minute to keep the U.S. from scoring.
In the 40th minute, Morgan had another shot on goal assisted by Julie Ertz, but again, van Veenendaal made the save. All four of the Americans’ shots in this game have been on target, while the Netherlands has still yet to take a shot.
28th minute: Quality chance for U.S.
Off a corner kick, the Americans finally had a promising scoring opportunity when Julie Ertz recorded the team’s first shot on target. But Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal came up with the save on a half-volley to deny the U.S.
The Oranje still haven’t taken a shot, but just before the Americans had their first chance, U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher cleared a dangerous ball that was primed to give the Netherlands a one-on-one opportunity to score.
Opening 'drought’ for U.S.
The Americans did not score in the opening 13 minutes of play. That’s the longest they’ve gone this tournament without scoring to start a game. The Dutch defense is using a 4-4-2 defensive shape to stifle the American attack. The Oranje hasn’t conceded a goal since its round of 16 match against Japan.
The earliest the U.S. scored in a World Cup game this year came when Lindsey Horan scored in the third minute against Sweden. Before this game, Thailand was the team that kept the U.S. out of the net the longest. In that opening game of the tournament for the Americans, the first goal game when Alex Morgan scored in the 12th minute.
10th minute: Yellow card
The Netherlands’ Sherida Spitse receives an early yellow card for a bad foul.
And we’re off
The U.S. women’s national team has begun its pursuit of a fourth World Cup championship and its second straight title, while the Netherlands is playing in its first final. Neither team has trailed at any point during this World Cup, but the U.S. is heavily favored in this match. Since the Women’s World Cup began in 1991, the Americans have played in five of the eight finals.
Americans Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are in the race for the Golden Boot, given to the tournament’s top goal scorer. Morgan enters the final with six goals, five of which came in the opening match against Thailand, while Rapinoe has scored five times. The Netherlands’ top scorer in France is Vivianne Miedema, who comes into the final with three goals.
If Morgan doesn’t score in this game, she will finish tied with England’s Ellen White. Morgan, however, would win the tiebreaker since she has three assists and White finished the tournament without any.
The teams will compete in front of a packed Lyon Olympic Stadium, which is dominated by U.S. fans. It’s another hot day in France with temperatures nearing 90 degrees at kickoff. Rapinoe and Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal are the captains for this game.
In pregame video, Dutch thank USWNT
A pregame hype video released by the Dutch national team featured scenes of American soccer and the stars of this national team. The clip that aired during Fox’s pregame show said, “You proved to us that dreams do come true. Thanks for that,” before shifting to a burst of Dutch highlights. Watch it here:
The starting lineups are out
Megan Rapinoe is back in the lineup for the U.S. after missing the semifinal game against England with a minor hamstring strain. She joins Birgit Prinz of Germany as the only players in tournament history to start in three finals, according to Fox Sports.
Rose Lavelle, who left the last game in the 65th minute due to a hamstring injury, is also back in the starting 11. In the midfield, Lavelle is joined by Julie Ertz and Samantha Mewis, while Lindsey Horan will start the game on the bench.
It’s the same starting lineup Jill Ellis called upon in Americans’ highly anticipated quarterfinal match against France. The U.S. won that game, 2-1, with Rapinoe scoring both goals. Ellis also chose this starting 11 for the first game of the knockout round, a 2-1 victory over Spain.
For the Dutch, star Lieke Martens will start. Martens has played in all six games and scored twice in the tournament, but the forward had to leave the semifinal against Sweden at halftime with a toe injury.
Setting the stage
by Steven Goff in Lyon, France
The United States carries high standards into every Women’s World Cup. Anything short of an appearance in the championship match is regarded as an epic failure.
And so when the Americans were locked in tight games at each step of the knockout phase this summer, there were genuine questions about whether this squad would make it Sunday’s final and continue its quest for a fourth championship.
Each time they were tested, though, the Americans responded. This marks a record third consecutive time — and fifth since the tournament was founded in 1991 — that they find themselves in the title game. Narrow victories over Spain, France and England secured passage.
The United States is expected to win by multiple goals, thanks to experience, depth and darn-good players. In their second World Cup, the Dutch have a bright future but seem a little ahead of their time.
If you’re looking for an early indicator, watch the clock. The Americans have taken the lead within 12 minutes of every match here. A Dutch stand would thicken the plot. Conversely, a quick U.S. goal could open the floodgates.
The teams will perform before an expected sellout of more than 53,000 — many of whom traveled here from the United States.
Regardless of the outcome, the match is a victory for one particular cause: Both coaches are female, the first time that’s occurred since 2003.
“It’s a wonderful statement,” U.S. boss Jill Ellis said on the eve of the match. “There aren’t enough of us coaching in the game. We need more. There are a lot of young women and former players who want to coach. To see coaches doing it is really important.”
Interest in the women’s soccer has spiked worldwide during this exceptionally well played tournament, raising hopes that the sport can enter a new era of corporate investors, media coverage and stable, successful professional leagues. But it remains to be seen if the momentum is sustainable. (Read more)
The team is on the verge of a momentous achievement, defending its world championship against stiffer competition while taking on off-field causes such as gender equality and brushing off other distractions. Sunday’s final against the Netherlands represents the last step. (Read more)
Four summer ago, as the U.S. women’s national soccer team played Japan for the World Cup trophy in Vancouver, Rose Lavelle was 140 miles south eating pizza. Four years on, Lavelle is in position to help the United States win another championship, as long as her troublesome hamstring does not betray her. (Read more)
The Americans have advanced to Sunday’s final because of depth and desire, experience and expertise. They are also in this position for the third straight time because Crystal Dunn, a natural attacker, has resisted instinctual urges to race ahead and, instead, embraced a disciplined role at left back. (Read more)
The Dutch beat Sweden on Wednesday, but the United States will arrive at Stade de Lyon as the heavy favorite to win a second consecutive trophy. The Americans have beaten the Dutch six consecutive times by a 22-2 count, but the sides haven’t clashed since 2016. And in that space, the Dutch won the 2017 European Championship and began placing more players at notable clubs, such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Arsenal. (Read more)
A day after watching the Women’s World Cup semifinal from the sideline with a hamstring injury, Megan Rapinoe stepped back into the spotlight Wednesday with an impassioned defense of her comments and actions about politics and patriotism. (Read more)
To get past England — their final hurdle in earning a spot in Sunday’s championship match — the top-ranked U.S. women had to tap every tactic in their repertoire, summon the best from lightly tested players and, yet again, draw on the stone-cold conviction that there was no situation they couldn’t overcome. (Read more)
Think about these amazing, defiant and relentless women as part of a potentially watershed period for both their sport and gender, writes columnist Jerry Brewer. Think of them drafting off the impact of #MeToo, being further galvanized by the political threats against abortion rights and Planned Parenthood and strengthening their determination over time to put up an even greater fight against the attitudes, sexism and unfair business practices of a male-dominated sports system. (Read more)
It’s time to discard, finally, the nagging, jersey-tugging, chronic, small-minded doctrine that we must “contextualize” everything the U.S. women’s national team does as “relative” to the men’s game, writes columnist Sally Jenkins. Sweet kicking Jesus, what titans these players are. (Read more)
The unparalleled investment into the Olympique Lyonnais superteam is expected to have a profound impact on the future of women’s soccer in the United States and around the world. In paying top dollar for top talent and providing facilities and working conditions on par with what men receive, the club has created a winning formula and established a model for women’s professional soccer across Europe and the United States. (Read more)