Nancy Armour, USA TODAY
Published 2:05 p.m. ET June 16, 2019 | Updated 11:09 p.m. ET June 16, 2019
SportsPulse: Anyone who thought the USWNT would simmer down after their celebration controversy they have a message for you: There’s no stopping them. USA TODAY Sports’ Nancy Armour breaks down the Americans’ win over Chile.
PARIS — The U.S. women are here to make a statement. On the field, to their opponents and, yes, even to those critics back home.
Carli Lloyd’s golf clap after the first of her two goals Sunday was the team’s way of saying they have no interest in acting like the “proper little ladies” some expect them to be. The 3-0 victory against Chile might not have looked as lopsided as that rout of Thailand, but they didn’t dial it back or tone it down one iota.
They’re the best team in the world and make no apologies for it, and if someone doesn’t like the way they celebrate, well, that sounds like somebody else’s problem.
“That this group is really fun and likes to have fun with each other,” Becky Sauerbrunn said when asked about the message behind Lloyd’s golf clap. “And likes to have fun with the public, as well.”
Everything in these first two World Cup games has been about the Americans building momentum and building cohesion. Only 14 players on the 23-woman team can play in any game, and there is a danger as the tournament goes along that those buried deep on the bench won’t be as engaged or feel as connected.
But there’s no telling when they might be called upon, so the challenge is to keep everyone invested.
That is what the celebrations in Tuesday night’s rout of Thailand were about. Making every person feel as if she is a vital part of the team, whether she gets on the field or not. The golf clap was something the entire team had agreed upon – Lloyd gave credit to Lindsey Horan for the initial idea – and Lloyd followed it by going to the sidelines and slapping with all of the bench players.
Julie Ertz did the same after her goal.
“It takes all 23 players. It takes the entire roster to ultimately lift this trophy,” said Lloyd, who became the first player to score a goal in six consecutive World Cup games. “We’ve obviously been on the bench supporting the starting group and then vice versa today. It’s just fun, fun to share in the goal celebrations.
“A lot of players on the bench are in my corner, and to go over to them and share in that moment is just really special.”
That cohesion, that all-in mentality is also why coach Jill Ellis basically turned over her entire lineup for the game against Chile. Ellis started seven new players, and brought Jess McDonald, Allie Long and Emily Sonnett in as substitutes.
That means, after the first two games, all 20 of the field players have now gotten playing time. That’s practically unheard of at a World Cup, let alone to have it occur in the first two games.
“Just more momentum,” Ellis said. “The energy that that creates. You can talk about the football on the pitch but you can also talk about how a team feels. … In terms of building momentum, now every single one of them has got the butterflies out of the way. And they know that trust is there. That’s a huge part from a coach, to be able to show that trust in the biggest stage of these players’ careers.”
And the speed and ferocity with which all of the Americans played should not go unnoticed by the rest of the field.
No, it wasn’t a rout. But the only thing that stopped it from being another laugher was Chile goalkeeper Christiane Endler, who was spectacular and very deservedly named player of the match.
Endler held the Americans scoreless in the second half despite being peppered with 14 shots, all but two of which were from inside the box. She made three or four spectacular saves, including a kick save on a dart by Horan. She also tipped a Christen Press shot from close range over the cross bar, one of several frustrations for Press.
But the fact they did not come away with any goals in the second half does not change the fact that they’re going to be full throttle and in your face for 90 minutes.
“It’s very much a part of our identity,” Sauerbrunn said. “I don’t think we hide that, at all, the way that we play. Defenders are getting forward, forwards are scoring lots of goals, we’re putting balls in the box, we’re getting into the box a variety of ways. We’re very much an attacking side.”
A full-throated clap for that.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.