LYON, FRANCE — From the beginning the Women’s World Cup was considered the USA’s to lose.
The Netherlands had other thoughts though and were able to frustrate the Americans. It wasn’t enough.
In front of a sellout crowd, two second half goals from Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle handed the USA its fourth World Cup title as they defeated the Dutch squad, 2-0 and with it captured the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup title.
With the stage set at Stade de Lyon, the Americans battled with the Netherlands for tempo for the majority of the first half Sunday.
Alex Morgan, her eyes set on the Golden Boot, the player with the most goals scored in the tournament, made her presence felt immediately. Morgan hit the post in the 38′ with a shot on goal and whipped another ball just slightly off in the 40′, frustrating Dutch keeper Sari van Veenendaal, who made four saves in total in the first half.
The USA also had its chances in the 17′ with a shot deflected out wide. USA keeper Alyssa Naeher was also tested early, making a big save in the 26′.
A scary moment occurred in the 46′ as Kelley O’hara and Lieke Martens’ collided heads going for a loose ball. Both players were able to get up and walk it off and the score remained knotted at zero at the half. O’hara was replaced by Ali Krieger in the second half.
The Dutch had only conceded three goals in the entire tournament coming into the final.
As the second half began, defender Beck Sauerbrunn took a shot to the head, was bleeding and was forced to leave the pitch in the 54′.
As the match became a bit testy, the USA was awarded a penalty shot in the 61′ as Alex Morgan took an aggressive shot, nearly to the face, and a foul was called. VAR confirmed the foul and Megan Rapinoe took the penalty kick.
Rapinoe was back in the lineup after suffering a very minor hamstring injury against France. Dutch standout Lieke Martens was also back from injury.
Giving the USA some breathing room was Rose Lavelle, who in the 69′ sized up with the left foot and tucked the ball into the back post to make it a 2-0 lead.
“We’re crazy,” said Rapinoe after the match. “We’ll do anything to win.”
Prior to the match FOX Sports analyst Alexi Lalas called the USA an “incredible, unique and interesting American team that is unapologetic.” They played that way.
“This is what you work for, set out to do,” Rapinoe said prior to kick.
Igniting a roaring applause from the crowd, Rapinoe exited the game in the 79′.
Weather was a factor with temperatures at 88 degrees at kickoff, both teams playing their seventh game in 27 days and the crowd was loud, both the Americans and the Orange Army, out in full force.
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) July 7, 2019
The Dutch made it to the final via a 1-0 win over Sweden. As defending European Champions, the Netherlands was considered a dark horse in the field. Dutch head coach Sarina Wiegman is a former North Carolina Tar Heel, winning the NCAA title in 1989 alongside Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, and Carla Overbeck.
The win comes on the heels of 28 American players banning together and filing a lawsuit over a significant gap in gender pay. FIFA’s President addressed gender pay gap issues last week and said he will work on improvements. “We are making progress. We have to invest in women’s football to make it even self-sustaining to some extent,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
USA head coach Jill Ellis said her team was built for these pressure-packed moments and were going to be able to handle it. Ellis was right but it did not come without protest from the Dutch. Ellis is the first coach to win multiple World Cup titles as manager.
The USA became the first team to make three straight finals, their fifth overall appearance. This is the first time they have won back-to-back titles.
This story was reported on from Charlotte.