So, the USWNT/Dominican Republic game. Where to begin? Any soccer match that ends with a two-touchdown score line is sure to ignite debate.
The U.S. ran up the score against hopelessly inferior opposition. But the team showed respect by not ‘playing down’ to its competition.
The USWNT took the ‘padding the goal differential’ thing way too seriously. But what happens if Mexico dismantles the Dominican Republic 11-0 and then Guatemala beats the U.S. 4-0?
Sundhage should have instructed the team to lay off after goal 10 or 11. It’s just needlessly excessive after that. So she was supposed to tell her strikers not to score goals? And saying ’14 goals is too much’ is totally arbitrary. If 14 goals is excessive, then what about 11 or 12? When does it cross the line into ‘classless’ territory? And plus, the Dominican Republic goalkeeper didn’t exactly inspire much sympathy. She punched her own teammate in the chest for goodness sake!
Ali Krieger might be out of commission for awhile thanks to a terribly clumsy, reckless, ill-advised tackle. But that’s soccer and it could have happened in any game or training session.
The CONCACAF commentators were spot on in their criticism of Pia Sundhage’s gratuitous goal celebrations. But she was proud of her team for doing what it’s supposed to do. Plus she’s just a super jolly person. And they’re excessively polite, manners-minded Canadians.
The U.S. has no business playing such lowly sides. But as the great Tim Vickery says, national teams will never improve by exclusion.
The team should have focused less on scoring goals and more on maintaining possession and executing cleaner passes. This is the same old USWNT we’re talking about, right?
The oft-maligned Amy ‘five goals in one half’ Rodriguez looked like a world-beater while Alex ‘WHY DOESN’T SHE START?’ Morgan was, well, goalless. I dunno, it was a weird game. But in all seriousness, it should do wonders for A-Rod’s confidence. And that last goal? What a strike!
It was a thoroughly joyless match. The team showed no mercy in demoralizing its opponent and there was even a serious injury to a beloved player. But look at this damn pictures. Do the players look joyless to you?
With all that said, it was hard to derive much enjoyment from Friday’s game. There was no sense of schaudenfraude in watching a hapless Dominican Republic side get trounced so mercilessly. And to the objective viewer, fourteen goals does seem to be a bit much, particularly when the dominant team is so well-endowed. That’s what the CONCACAF commentators were hinting at when referring to the USWNT’s inherent edge. Superior resources, better funding, and an undeniable cultural advantage. The contest just wasn’t on a level playing field, and some would say that a 14-0 victory screams of arrogance.
Still, Pia’s viewpoint is at least partly understandable, even if she failed to express it in her post-match comments. The team put forth quite an effort, which Pia praised. Some commentators (not I) felt the USWNT’s loss in the World Cup final was an epic choke job. If the USWNT now adheres to a kind of siege mentality, the team has the right to showcase quality deserving of its no.1 world ranking, regardless of the competition. The team has the right to score goals, and Pia – as head coach – has the right to celebrate. It wasn’t an exhibition match intended to spread goodwill.
Germany came under similar fire last October after its 17-0 tanking of Kazakhstan in Euro 2013 Qualifying. It was a ruthless and haughty performance, critics cried, but Silvia Neid obviously begged to differ. “There is no reason for any criticism today,” she said. When the final whistle blew, the team celebrated as if it had won a medal.
To put Friday’s victory in context, it’s the largest margin of victory for the USWNT in team history. The Dominican Republic is ranked 88th in the world, sandwiched between Malaysia and Guyana. And as Jeff Kassouf points out, it also suggests that the gap between the established powers and the fledgling programs isn’t actually closing. Like, at all. Indeed, the gulf between the top 30 ranked teams and the rest of the world remains canyon-like.
In historical terms, double-digit routs are truly a thing of the past. The last time the USWNT reached that margin in a single match was 2006 when the team defeated Chinese Taipei 10-0. Christie Rampone, Abby Wambach, Heather Mitts, and Carli Lloyd all played in that match too. But prior to 2006, the most recent shellacking’s occurred back in 1994 against Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica respectively. In 1991 there were four consecutive matches that saw double-digit shut-outs, all versus CONCACAF competition once again.
For me, Saturday morning’s most pressing question is not whether the team ran up or the score line or if it showed a lack of class in its goal celebrations. It’s…sadder. Will the best right-back from the World Cup miss the Olympics? If so, what will that mean for the USWNT and who will replace her?
Twitter was in fine form last night. Here’s a collection of some of the most memorable Tweets: