As the USWNT soccer team prepares for Sunday’s World Cup showdown with Japan, U.S. soccer fans are celebrating FIFA’s recognition of three of their most prominent players, midfielders and veterans Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, as well as newcomer defender Julie Johnston.
Rapinoe, Johnston, and Lloyd were three of eight players selected for the coveted 2015 Women’s World Cup Golden Ball award. The Golden Ball is given to the person considered the best player of the tournament meaning, in nominations, U.S. soccer represents more than a third of the shortlist. Also represented are two players from Japan and one each from Germany, England, and France.
While midfielder Carli Lloyd’s steady feet and precision aim had U.S. soccer fans jumping for joy on several occasions throughout the games, Rapinoe and Johnston’s upbeat tempo and physical strength and skill have been the talk of the World Cup.
U.S. soccer fans caught their breath earlier in the games when Rapinoe received her second yellow card and was forced to sit out the quarterfinal game against China. And as things intensified for U.S. soccer in the semi-final game against Germany, fans wiped their foreheads in relief after a foul by Johnston was leniently dismissed with a yellow card instead of a red and a penalty kick went awry for Germany. Still, the level of play exhibited by both Johnston and Rapinoe have been some of the defensive highlights of the games.
The U.S. soccer team got off to a semi-slow start with several soccer fans questioning whether or not they had the drive to make another World Cup final appearance. A controversial article posted by an Australian soccer news source following their win over Australia not only questioned if U.S. soccer had the drive but the skill to succeed. Tuesday’s decisive win over Germany seemed to answer those questions regarding skill and will with a resounding, “Yes!”
Should Rapinoe, Johnston, or Lloyd pull off the win of the Golden Ball, it would be a huge boost for U.S. soccer’s ego. The last time an American soccer player won the coveted award was in 1991 when Carin Jennings represented the red, white, and blue.
In another honor for U.S. soccer, goalkeeper Hope Solo is up for the prestigious Golden Glove Award for the top goalkeeper of the tournament. U.S. soccer fans will recall that Solo actually won this award in the 2011 World Cup despite the USWNT loss to Japan in penalty kicks.
The U.S. defense has held all other teams scoreless for the past 513 minutes of World Cup play. U.S. soccer fans undoubtedly hope that streak continues this Sunday in the final face off against Japan. More than 8.1 million viewers tuned in for the intense semi-final soccer game. Perhaps the ever growing support for U.S. soccer will give the USWNT the boost they need to bring the Cup home.
[Image courtesy of Kansas City Star.]