It was kind of a crazy year for the USWNT. Any year you win a World Cup is a crazy year, but considering all the hand-wringing that went on before the tournament, fans could be forgiven for getting a little more excited than usual about winning. Here's a rundown of the best and worst USWNT moments in 2015.
The World Cup/almost everything Carli Lloyd did in knockout
This one is kind of a gimme, but I would be remiss not to include it at the top of the list.
You know the story: the United States weren't looking so hot coming out of group. The midfield was struggling. The offense was struggling. The defense...was looking pretty stellar, actually, but there was only so much they could do if the goals weren't coming.
Then Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe both got carded out against Colombia in the round of 16 and Morgan Brian started playing full 90s and whoa is that Carli Lloyd scoring in every single knockout round game?
So thank you, referee Stephanie Frappart of France. Those yellows you handed out to Holiday and Rapinoe really got the old engine turning over.
Jill Ellis starts integrating new talent
Jill Ellis came out of the World Cup looking like a genius, even though questions still linger about what she would have done but for those yellow cards. But that's all in the past. We won the cup. What matters is what Ellis is doing right now, and that's actually cycling in some new players.
She said that she would use the World Cup Victory Tour as a way to evaluate new players, and for a while it seemed as though by "new players" she meant "Crystal ‘was going to claw her way onto this team whether Jill liked it or not' Dunn." But then!
Not even halfway through the tour, and against Brazil to boot, Ellis called in names like Jaelene Hinkle, Emily Sonnett, Stephanie McCaffrey, and Lindsey Horan. And she gave them meaningful minutes against a strong opponent and they did pretty well, perhaps indicating that they'll show up again in future games while the USWNT prepares for the 2016 Olympics.
Older players ride into the sunset
It's been coming for a while, but Lori Chalupny, Shannon Boxx, and Abby Wambach all retired this year. Christie Rampone is expected to retire soon. And it's time. In several interviews speaking about her own career, Wambach admitted that it was time - her body simply can't withstand the rigors of top-level soccer anymore.
Some of them were really hanging in there to the rugged end to make it through the World Cup, and they went out as champions, so their retirements shouldn't be cause for sadness. They achieved a lot, and most of them will remain involved with soccer to some degree. If this were a motivational poster written in faux-cursive with a generic nature background, it would be the old "don't be sad because it's over, smile because it happened."
Cancelled game in Honolulu
The cancelled game isn't in and of itself the worst thing - although many who traveled for the game might tell you otherwise.
The cancellation makes the "worst" list because it was a symptom of something nasty that's been brewing at US Soccer for a while. Megan Rapinoe tearing her ACL at a bad practice field combined with the questionable playing surface at Aloha Stadium got folded into ongoing issues the WNT has with their federation about unequal treatment between them and the men's national team.
It sucks that things came to a head in a location where cancellation would hit travelers harder than usual, but in the words of Alex Morgan, "no one's really going to protect us but ourselves."
The 0-0 draw against Sweden in group at the World Cup
What an awful game. For 90 minutes, nothing really happened. Our only saving grace was that the Swedes didn't do much of anything either and our defense swept up the rest.
This game edges the 0-0 draw against Iceland during the Algarve tournament only by virtue of being televised. You'll remember that, while all of the US games during the Algarve were supposed to be televised, a mysterious "lighting issue" prevented fans from watching them play Iceland. By all accounts, the technical difficulties did us all a favor since that game was apparently one of the most frustrating, stultifying 90 minutes of soccer the WNT produced in calendar year 2015 - although it did produce some juicy quotes afterwards.
Lauren Holiday retires
Unlike the other retirees this year, Holiday is ostensibly still in her prime. At age 28, she seems to still be in peak condition and is currently regarded as one of the best attacking midfielders in the game right now.
But Holiday wants to focus on the other parts of her life now, and it certainly didn't help that she was often asked to sit back in a defensive role, instead of going forward and playing to her strengths.
So Holiday now joins the ranks of retired-in-their-prime greats, to be sorely missed by club and country alike.
That was the year in USWNT highs and lows. Leave your own bests and worsts in the comments.