The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team took on the Netherlands at the World Cup on Wednesday night – a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final in which the U.S. emerged victorious. Alas, this go-around ended in a 1-1 draw.
The Dutch scored first, marking the first time the USA had trailed in a World Cup match since the 2011 quarterfinal against Brazil. Then, U.S. Captain Lindsey Horan headed in an equalizer in the second half.
Still watching on repeat 🔃
— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) July 27, 2023
This was the team’s second match of group stage play. They won 3-0 against Vietnam last week.
Linda Hamilton, a soccer Hall of Famer who was on the 1999 winning U.S. World Cup team and now coaches soccer at Southwestern University in Georgetown, said Wednesday’s game was a story of two halves.
“It was a runner-up and world champion from the previous World Cup, so you knew it was going to be competitive,” she said. “I thought the Netherlands absolutely took it to us in the first half and really dominated play. And I think the addition of, and infusion of, Rose Lavelle for the U.S. team in the second half really changed our game. And in the second half, we were much more competitive.”
Hamilton said the U.S. needs to work on consistency in order to stay in this tournament.
“Right now our consistency is a bit of a weakness – our level of performance through the full 90 minutes. Strengths, I mean, I think we are just a wealth of talent and abilities, and you see glimpses of that. But putting it together for 90 minutes hasn’t happened yet, which is okay as a tournament is meant to be something you build towards.”
Hamilton said the U.S. game versus the Netherlands was the most competitive of the World Cup so far – in a tournament likely to be the most competitive that women’s soccer has ever seen. This is also the biggest Women’s World Cup to date, and it has been attracting a lot of media attention and viewership.
“The world, and even as a country, we all continue to change, to start celebrating athletes of all genders, not just men,” she said. “What’s happened in a lot of these countries, they’ve created their own professional league for women. And I think that makes a huge difference. The top teams that have won World Cups, every one of us has a professional league in our country. So I think that just helps grow the game internally for someone’s own country.”
Part of the impact of this overall improvement of the women’s game is that top teams aren’t blowing out smaller teams like in years past, Hamilton said.
The U.S. team will take on Portugal on Aug. 1 at 2 a.m. CT in their final game in the group play stage. The result of this game – and the other games from teams in the same group – will determine who will advance to the round of 16.
The U.S. “haven’t guaranteed anything into the next round, and Portugal won earlier this morning, so they’re going to have to bring their best and they’re going to have to try to win by a couple of goals to try to continue to keep the margin,” Hamilton said. “I think they’re going to bring their best lineup. I think they’re going to bring everyone that’s healthy.”
Hamilton said plenty of teams are in the running for the cup this year, including Germany, England, France and Japan – as well as the Netherlands. Whether the U.S. has what it takes to go all the way in this tournament remains to be seen.
“I don’t think the first two games that we’ve seen are going to be good enough. But I don’t think it’s put them out of the running, either,” Hamilton said. “The job of the coach now, it’s not about teaching the players anything. It’s about putting them in the right positions with the right teammates and having the right chemistry on the field. We have not shown that form yet, but I think we have the ability to do so.”
Hamilton said as a former World Cup champion-turned-coach, sometimes she finds herself itching to offer advice to the U.S. coach, Vlatko Andonovski, while she watches. But mostly, she tries to keep her viewing experience positive.
“It’s much more about just enjoying the match and really enjoying the next generation of players that I see coming up. And I love the mix of our veteran players on this team with the mix of youth players; I do think that’s good chemistry. I think we’re the only team that has that kind of experience and youth coming with it,” she said. “So I 100% believe that will pave the way to a degree and help us and in ways we can’t see right now, from a competitive spirit. Whoever ends up being in the final four, it’s a heck of an accomplishment. And beyond that, they really will be the best team in the world.”