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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Bellingham watches USWNT win gold

Many U.S. soccer fans remember the 2011 Women’s World Cup Final, when the United States went up against Japan.

“The last Women’s World Cup was spectacular,” said Samuel Rongve, a Western senior and a die-hard soccer fan. “The final, when the U.S. lost to Japan, was the finest soccer game I had ever seen anywhere.”

After 90 minutes, the U.S. and Japan were tied 2-2. The game would go into penalty kicks to decide the winner.  After a grueling shoot-out, Japan came out on top.  After losing in such a dramatic fashion, Team USA returned home with hungry eyes set upon 2015.

Fast-forward four years and Team USA is still dominating. Never losing a game, Team USA finished at the top of their bracket during the group stage of the 2015 World Cup hosted in Canada. After working their way through the second stage of the tournament, fate had decided that the final would be a rematch against Japan.

This was a game to be remembered. As a rematch to the previous World Cup, it was clear the game would be competitive.

“I think anytime there’s a big win, or getting up to a big game, everyone gets really pumped up and shows their spirit,” said Sierra Warren, a recent Western graduate and avid soccer fan.  “In the Northwest there’s a lot of support for soccer in general,” Warren said. “Having the World Cup in Canada has amped it up here in Bellingham.”

Many places in Bellingham were filled with fans and the border crossings were packed with people going to watch the final in Vancouver, British Columbia.  As the players walked onto the field, the most represented colors in the crowd were red, white and blue.

As the game started, both teams looked confident. Team USA played with its patented high pressure attack while Japan played for possession and the counter attack.

Then the Carli Lloyd show began. She started her transformation from strong, reliable midfielder and goal scorer, to a legend in U.S. women’s soccer. In the third and fifth minutes, Carli Lloyd scored two nearly identical goals. Both came off crosses from the right side of the field, and both were strong, textbook finishes. 

Team USA was up 2-0 and the stadium was still settling in.  Hungry for more, Team USA continued their pressure on Japan.  A strong volley by Lauren Holiday in the 14th minute put Team USA ahead by 3. Then, a rare moment of soccer magic occurred.

In the 16th minute, Carli Lloyd received the ball at the midfield line. She saw that the Japanese goalkeeper, Ayumi Kaihori, was out of position and sent the ball arching toward goal. The Japanese goalkeeper sprinted back and dove for the ball, but she couldn’t stop it and Lloyd had just completed her hat trick.

“I don’t think it’s entirely sunk in,” Carli Lloyd said during the FIFA postgame press conference. “I’m so proud and so zapped at the same time.”

Lloyd is the first player to complete a hat trick in a FIFA Women’s World Cup final, and will possibly remain the only player to do it in less than 20 minutes.

Japan still fought for the win, scoring a goal in the 27th minute and forcing an own goal by Julie Johnston in the 52nd minute. But Team USA was not done scoring.  A final goal by Tobin Heath in the 54th minute sealed the game and Japan was never able to recover.

As the final whistle blew, the stadium erupted with cheers for the American side and Team USA was given the FIFA World Cup trophy. Carli Lloyd was named player of the match, forever making her an icon in American soccer.

With this first place win, Team USA completed its tour of the podium, after placing third in 2007, second in 2011 and now first in 2015.


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