If you’re reading this, congratulations! You’re so close to making it through another year as a fan of the US women’s national team. Being a sports fan is awesome, except when it’s utterly demoralizing. But that pendulum swing from high to low is often what keeps us coming back for more; the high highs feel so much sweeter after we slog through the low lows. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the best and worst moments of the women’s program in 2017.
This entire tournament was the epitome of, as the kids say, feelsbadman, with the low point probably being a tossup between losing 1-0 to England or 3-0 to France. France beat the United States by more, but the England game could have been a win. Sometimes it doesn’t feel as bad to lose by a big margin because at least you can say the superior team clearly won and there’s nothing you could have done about it. But close margins hurt because a twist that way, a turn this way, and you could at least be walking away with a point. And in the England game, the US definitely put forth a decent effort, but got shanked in the 89’ by a late goal.
The three back
It wasn’t the use of a three-back formation in and of itself that was so wrong; it was that Jill Ellis just didn’t really seem to know how to use it with the personnel she had. Allie Long as the center of a three in an attempt to use her as a deep-lying playmaker AND defender did not pay off and left a big liability right in front of our goal. Kudos for wanting to add something different to the WNT’s arsenal, but minus points for flubbing the execution.
Tournament of Nations
The Tournament of Nations wasn’t all bad. That 4-3 comeback over Brazil was pretty exciting, for example. But the fact that the WNT had to dig out a 4-3 comeback due to their own lackluster play for about 75% of that game was not a good look. And then there was losing to Australia for the first time ever, a 1-0 loss off a Tameka Butt goal in the 67’. It’s not that losing to Australia is particularly shameful - they’re shaping up as one of the toughest teams to beat as this cycle peaks towards 2019 - it’s that the United States still could have beaten them and they didn’t.
US Soccer’s anthem policy
After Megan Rapinoe began taking a knee during the national anthem to help highlight police brutality against Black Americans, US Soccer responded by making it official federation policy to always stand during the anthem, and they did it when they knew the WNT would be preoccupied by SheBelieves. The federation is completely within their rights to set player policy in whatever way they think is best for USSF as a whole. That doesn’t mean their policies are always just or carried out in a fair way.
Alex Morgan is still Alex Morgan
We’ve sung Alex Morgan’s praises repeatedly as the year comes to the close, and this is the refrain. There’s been a fair share of handwringing (much of it done by the author of this article) over whether Alex Morgan would ever really be “Alex Morgan” again, aka a clutch goalscorer with no regard for the integrity of anyone’s back line but her own. Perhaps that’s too much pressure to place on a player who, even when operating around 80-90% is still quite a good forward. But this year Alex Morgan sneered at “quite good” and pushed the throttle back up to “Did Alex Morgan do that? Again?” She seemed to get a boost in France, then came back to Orlando and started knocking in goals (with the help of old pal Marta) and then knocked in yet more goals for the United States. Alex Morgan ruled just about any angle under 45 degrees at the near post.
Julie puts the hurt in Ertz
When Jill Ellis finally pulled it together and stopped doing stuff like playing Becky Sauerbrunn at DM, she put finally put Julie Ertz in probably her most natural role on the field and boy did it show. Ertz is a total commander in that position, able to get just about anyone off the ball, disrupt in front of the back line, shift momentum in favor of the US attack, and pick her moments to get forward and add to numbers in front of the goal. Becky Sauerbrunn at DM when you have Julie Ertz, honestly.
Rose Lavelle debuts
Just watch this and use whatever spare energy you have to will Rose Lavelle and her hamstring to 100% health for 2018.
A new CBA for a new era
For a while it really looked like collective bargaining negotiations between the WNT and US Soccer might hit some kind of impasse before the start of the 2017 NWSL season. Andrew Das reported in the New York Times that the team and USSF had held “more than 20 negotiating sessions” in the first few months of the year. But in the end the two groups got a new contract signed through 2021 and addressed issues like equal per diems to the MNT, improving NWSL standards, and controlling group likeness rights.
What made you cringe, gasp, cry, or cheer this year? Did you have to shut yourself down to most emotions in order to survive, or did it all hit you like a tidal wave regardless? Let us know in the comments.