Champs again: Women's World Cup win a story of perseverance

07/07/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

It had been 16 years since the United States won the FIFA Women's World Cup. 1999 was the year that Brandi Chastain made the sports bra famous after her title winning penalty kick goal in the overtime shootout lifted the USA over China. The win gave the US women their 2nd title in the 3rd ever Women's World Cup tournament.
Since then, the ladies of the Red, White, & Blue finished 3rd in both the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. Those were both disappointing results, but those results paled in comparison to the disappointment at the 2011 World Cup. In the Finals for the first time since their 1999 championship, the USA fell to Japan the same way they defeated China 12 years earlier, losing in the penalty kick phase of overtime.
Fittingly for the United States, they got a championship rematch with Japan in 2015. But this time penalty kicks wouldn't be necessary. The US scored 4 times in the first 16 minutes of the match. Carli Lloyd took Chastain's spot as America's hero, scoring twice in the first 5 minutes and netting a hat trick in the first half, as the USA rolled to an impressive 5 to 2 win.

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The United States went 5 matches without surrendering a goal prior to the final match. A testament to the team's defense, but also to their goalkeeper, Hope Solo. For Solo, the World Cup win was well deserved. In the team's semi final round loss to Brazil in 2007, Solo was benched in favor of Brianna Scurry, who helped lead the team to that 1999 title. The US were beaten 4 to nothing, and Solo said after the match that then coach Greg Ryan made the wrong decision and that she would've "no doubt made those saves". Solo wasn't allowed to play in the team's 3rd place match against Norway and was heavily criticized by many of her then teammates for her comments. Off the field, things weren't easy for Solo either. Her and her husband, former Seattle Seahawks player Jerramy Stevens, were involved in an incident the night before their wedding that landed Stevens in jail. Charges were never filed, both Solo and Stevens said he took the rap to protect their family members who were actually involved in the altercation that led to Stevens being arrested. Solo was herself arrested last summer after a fight with her half sister and nephew. Charges against her were dismissed earlier this year. For Solo, this World Cup win will hopefully take the focus off of the negative events she's dealt with away from soccer, and refocus the attention to what she's accomplished on the pitch. Solo holds United States soccer goalkeeping records including wins, shutouts, starts, appearances, consecutive minutes played, most wins in a season, and longest undefeated streak. She helped the women's team win gold in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and won the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper at the 2011 World Cup and again this year.
For Abby Wambach it was a way to go out on top in what was her final World Cup appearance. Wambach played for the US team in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015 World Cups. She was a part of the Olympic team that won gold in 2004 and 2012. Wambach was named to the 2008 squad, but suffered a broken leg in an exhibition match prior to the Olympics. She is the all time leading goal scorer international soccer for both men and women. Wambach also was named as FIFA's World Player of the Year in 2012.
For Christie Rampone, it's the same ending to a fantastic World Cup career as it is for Wambach. At age 40, she became the oldest player to ever appear in a Women's World Cup match. She played for the United States in 5 World Cup tournaments and 4 Olympic tournaments. Rampone also has the second most caps of any player in United States and world soccer history.

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