Posted by Brian Stubits
This is how a country can endear itself to a sport it has yet to really accept.
The U.S. Women's World Cup squad has been gripping. It has been beyond entertaining. And speaking for myself, it has inspired an even stronger sense of patriotism.
I am still trying to figure out the more amazing part of this Women's World Cup: the fact that people in the U.S. are paying such close attention to soccer or that they are paying attention to women's soccer. Let's be honest, women's sports take a back seat in interest level. Even in tennis, a sport where the interest is near equal, the men always play their finals after the women.
|Women's World Cup 2011|
| Gregg Doyel
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I took in the quarterfinal game against Brazil in a sports bar and was somewhat stunned to see the people on hand watching the game, erupting into celebration with Abby Wambach's game-tying goal. Suddenly, Uncle Sam's army was spreading, bringing out some soccer aficionados cheering on the ladies in the red, white and blue.
Names like Wambach, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Heather O'Reilly now exist in a lot of sports fans' vocabularies. Moments like this from Rapinoe help too. Now there is more than Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain to Americans.
Of course, winning helps too. Winning always helps. Especially in such exciting fashion. Is there anything Americans love more than winning?
The Brazil win will go down as one of the greatest games in U.S. soccer history, men or women. But the 3-1 victory over France today was no slouch in the intrigue department. The Americans were dominated by the French for the first 70 minutes of this game. The U.S. had one chance early and scored. After that, it was all France, including a second-half score by Les Bleus, leading to a lot more nail-biting in the States. That was until Wambach found herself on the far post with a header opportunity again, this time coming off a corner kick. Suddenly, the USA was up again and flipped the game's script that fast. With the French defense forced to press, Morgan snuck by and tacked on the icing three minutes later. The U.S. is back in the World Cup final.
Now I'm no fool. I understand that in a few week's time this will largely be forgotten and soccer will remain more or less a niche sport in the States. But every time there is a team like this or moments like Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria last year, the game gains more steam in the States. It has to.
This has been great soccer. Yes, the team itself has made for some compelling games by their late-game heroics and the like, but it really has been good soccer. And fans who say they won't watch soccer with the flopping? It's just not as prevalent in the women's game as the guys.
It is getting hard to ignore this team. And at this point, I'm not sure why you would want to.