In a match that would determine who would stay in the hotel of their choice in Lyon, the United States Women’s National Team took on England looking to give fans reason to celebrate the 4th of July a little early this year. For England, the team had everything to gain and nothing to lose, a victory would be a massive upset that would truly show how far women’s soccer had come in the nation after a heartbreaking elimination in 2015. A loss would send them to the 3rd place game, though their minds were on victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there would be no survival.
The story for the US was well known. As the tournament has progressed, the US has grown into the competition and outside of a few nervy moments has looked every inch the no. 1 team in the world. The Americans were coming off of their best performance against any team that could presumably beat them in the 2-1 win over France. England would be the next test the team would face in its crucible of fate as it continued its quest for a fourth star.
What followed over 90+ minutes was an entertaining display of chaos, brilliance, grit, determination, heart stopping moments, and thrilling expressions of football joy as two teams fought with everything they had to reach their goal. In a word, it was fun. The US was determined and never seemed in doubt of achieving victory and while they were underdogs, England didn’t back down one inch. In the end, a huge save from Alyssa Naeher and goals from Christen Press and Alex Morgan gave the USA a 2-1 win and their third straight trip to the Women’s World Cup Final.
Predictable allusions to the Revolutionary War ... and gifs
Lineups would come out with two big changes for the Americans. On the bench were both President Megan Rapinoe and Sam Mewis, in were Christen Press and Lindsey Horan. With Rose Lavelle a tricky dribbler and Mewis sharing some of the skills that Horan does, that made sense, but Rapinoe was not seen warming up before the match and did have her hamstring wrapped though US Soccer did not announce her as being injured, so it’s not clear if this was a tactical move or a health related one.
The last few matches have seen the US charge straight at their opposition and create an early chance. It would be no different against England as the US applied steady pressure leading to two chances that Carly Telford couldn’t smother but that the Americans couldn’t put into the goal. England would be successful in building possession, but couldn’t find the final pass to get a breakthrough in the early going.
A breakthrough would come in the 10th minute when the US drove forward with numbers after winning possession in midfield. A line breaking pass from Tobin Heath that Rose Lavelle let through found Kelley O’Hara and the left back sent a looping cross that Press headed past Telford.
Kids, if you want to score a goal in the World Cup, become a winger on the US Women’s National Team.
England was undaunted though and answered right back. In a theme that would develop over the night, a collective failure to close down Keira Walsh let the midfielder pick a diagonal to Beth Mede who sent a cross that found the absolutely lethal Ellen White.
COMPUTER - ENHANCE:
The match would continue to be back and forth as the US and England traded chances and defensive miscues. However, Alex Morgan would celebrate her birthday by giving the United States of America an early birthday present with her sixth goal of the tournament.
Alex, what have you given us? A lead in the World Cup semi-final, if you can keep it.
If you’re wondering if the USA would taunt England after the pearl clutching by Phil Neville about the hotel controversy - the answer is that Alex Morgan celebrated by having a tea party; she’s the Queen of England now.
rt if you just want to be alex morgan when you grow up pic.twitter.com/BgwyeJC7NF— tobin heath stan acct (@its_whitney) July 2, 2019
(in case you are wondering, yes Piers Morgan had a big sad about this).
The second half would begin as the early going resembled the Battle of Bunker Hill with Horan getting a yellow for elbowing Lucy Bronze and England hacking away at a few American ankles for good measure. It looked like England would even the score when a free kick by Meade would find White, but the striker’s header was miraculously plucked out of the air by Alyssa Naeher before it went over the line.
The US would be forced to make its first change when Rose Lavelle went down with an apparent hamstring injury in the 65th minute as Sam Mewis would replace her.
After the restart, England would find an equalizer in the 68th minutes as yet again Walsh was given enough space to fill all of Worcestershire County to pick a pass from that set up a goal for White yet again - or so it would seem until VAR ruled her offside.
Luckily, Walsh would come out for Jade Moore in the 71st so the Thirteen Stripes wouldn’t have to worry about not defending her anymore. Even with the change the middle of the park would belong to England. In the 80th minute the Lionesses went right down the center of the pitch and only Becky Sauerbrunn clipping Ellen White stopped the striker from having a clear chance on goal. After another VAR review, a penalty was awarded and Steph Houghton’s shot was saved by Alyssa Naeher.
"When that PK didn't go in, I said to myself, 'we're going to win the World Cup.'"— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 25, 2019
Moment No. 1️⃣3️⃣: @HopeSolo psyches out Germany's Celia Sasic in the pivotal moment of the @USWNT's 2015 semifinal victory. pic.twitter.com/SRrNA3O0BW
Wait, that’s not right.
In true IF YOU ARE GOING THROUGH HELL KEEP GOING fashion, things would get worse for England. Having been given a yellow in the 40th, Millie Bright would get her second caution and be sent off in the 86th minute. Despite seven minutes of added time, England couldn’t find a short-handed breakthrough and America declared independence from British tyranny once again by advancing to the World Cup Final.
American Hero of the Match - Rose Lavelle
It’s really not nice to ask someone who lives on an island with bad food and worse weather if they would like some nutmeg with their tea before doing something like this.
Ok, so that was fun - Rose had a great game and was a key part of picking through the England backline (imagine being a defender covering Tobin Heath, you do everything right and force her to dump the ball off and she does and it goes to Rose Lavelle (also, please let your hamstring be OK)).
But really, it’s Alyssa Naeher. She had to make a save in a huge moment and she did it. Yes, England is known for bottling penalties and losing Empires, but she still had to make the read right and get to the ball. Goalkeeper has been a question mark for the team since Hope Solo was banished and eventually pulled an Benedict Arnold joining the BBC for the World Cup. Naeher won the job and has come through with some big moments like this one when it’s counted most.