KENYA BROWN - Monday, July 8, 2019
The US Women's National Team had to wait until the second half to find the goals, but in the end they retained their World Cup crown with a shutout win over the Netherlands on Sunday in Lyon.
The Americans, who came into the game as the heavy favorites, fielded a full-strength lineup, with Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle returning to the starting eleven after recovering from hamstring injuries. And both would play a vital role in the team's win later on.
The game was a monumental moment for the Dutch side as in this was their second appearance in the World Cup. The reigning European champions have made huge strides since four years ago, and with the backing of their federation, it showed on field in every game they played thus far. And they were certainly game to give their opponents a fight for the entire 90 minutes.
The first half would end scoreless as the US chipped away at breaking down the stingy Netherlands defense, but champs did have their chances.
Alex Morgan came very close to breaking the deadlock in the 38th when she connected on a cross from Rapinoe on the left side, but Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal was able to keep the ball out with some help from the post.
Morgan followed that chance with a blistering curler from the edge of the area in the 40th minute, but van Veenendaal stood tall once again to make the save.
While the Dutch captain kept her team in the game, the second half would prove to be their downfall when there was a foul in area as Stefanie van der Gragt caught Morgan with high kick. The referee conferred with the video assistant referee and pointed to the spot for a penalty.
Rapinoe, who scored two penalties for the US in their Round of 16 game against Spain, came up trumps again for the team as the captain stepped up and sent the ball to the left of van Veenendaal and into the goal. That would be her sixth goal of the tournament.
The game was put on ice eight minutes later when Lavelle was left with acres of spaces to dribble the ball into the Dutch area, allowing her to fire her shot past the outstretched hand of the goalkeeper.
It was a well-played game by both teams, but US head coach Jill Ellis was masterful in her strategy as the team finally broke the Dutch defensive wall to keep the World Cup trophy in their hands for another four years.