Dispatch from Reims: Gluttons for glory

As the U.S. team kicked off this evening in Reims it looked like they were lining up in a 0-3-7 formation, the kind of tactical norm last seen in the late nineteenth century. That’s not quite how they ended up playing (though it wasn’t far off), but as a statement of intent it said a lot about how they planned to go about the business of destroying Thailand in their first group game.

To win by 13 goals to zero may seem like unnecessary greed. Is there no Mercy Rule at this World Cup? Yet it’s far better to be accused of goal-mouth gluttony than to spend 90 minutes dallying in the final third and looking lost for ideas about how to break down two rows of five defenders. As several other teams have already found out during these first few days of France 2019.
Let’s not dwell on the dubious qualities of Thailand. They qualified for the World Cup, so they have to be treated seriously, no matter how weak their resistance turned out to be. Let’s focus instead on a US performance that should be celebrated on several levels. It was a terrific display of all-out attacking soccer, with a number of superior goals and exhilarating performances – in particular from Kelley O’Hara, Rose Lavelle, and of course Alex Morgan. This game showcased the depth of the squad, allowing players like Carli Lloyd and Mallory Pugh to come off the bench and keep the goals flowing, and maintaining the pressure on teammates to not let up.
This sounds inane, but it was also a true demonstration of team spirit. Each success was celebrated with the bench, at some length, as though it was the go-ahead goal. That augurs well for this traveling community in the coming weeks. And the fact that the more they scored, the more they seemed to want to score, is testimony to a professionalism that is still, after all these years, pushing hard to be treated and paid in the manner these players strongly believe they deserve.
This was personified by Morgan, not just through her five goals, but by her industry. With 15 minutes to go, having already scored a hat-trick and with the score at 8-0, she tracked back 20 yards to the center circle to dispossess a Thai player who was in the position of vaguely threatening to attack. She didn’t need to do that. At 8-0, no U.S. player needed to do anything but put their feet on the ball and pass it around at the back. Yet they scored five more goals before the night was over.
Ever since France took South Korea down, 4-0, in the tournament’s opener last Friday, the more fancied teams at France 2019 have been struggling to break through supposedly lesser opponents. The most notable example of dogged defending was Argentina’s 0-0 "victory" over Japan, which the Argentines celebrated as though winning a point had been the sole reason for them bothering to fly half way around the world. (They had lost every game they played in their two previous trips to the Women's World Cup.) Italy, meanwhile, topped that by disposing of one of the pre-tournament favorites, Australia. Canada, the Netherlands and Sweden all had to wait until their respective games’ final minutes before finding a way through the stubborn defensive lines of Cameroon, New Zealand and Chile.
These games may have acted as a spur in Reims. From the first kick, this was a match that was a cakewalk for the U.S., and terrifying for Thailand. Many of the goals looked like they’d just been rehearsed on the training ground, with the defense asked to be passive. It was easy because they made it look easy. It was expected, it was routine, but it had to be done.
The draw and the schedule has been exceptionally kind to the U.S. This was somewhere between a warm-up game and the real thing, an ideal way to work your way into the tournament. The U.S. made the best use of the 90 minutes by treating it like the real thing. They didn’t patronize their opponents, they devastated them. In the case of Thailand’s Miranda Nild, this was all too clear from her tears at the final whistle. But the hitherto ruthless Morgan took the time to offer her a few words of consolation, while the Thai fans applauded their team in a fashion that you can only describe as beyond worthy.
Will the other countries be awestruck, or will they dismiss this as a turkey shoot? There will be no easier team to play than Thailand at this competition. But there may also be no harder team to defend against than the United States.

Photo: Fotoarena/Imago/Icon Sportswire

24 comments about "Dispatch from Reims: Gluttons for glory".
  1. stewart hayes, June 11, 2019 at 9:07 p.m.

    They took the opponent seriously and are out to win the group in which every goal may count in the end.  Free kick and corner kicks plays were well rehearsed.  Hopefully we will see more of down the road.  There were some disappointments, particularly the play of the captain for most of the night and Heath on the opposite flank but these shortcommings did not hold back the onslaught.  The only danger of Moragn working so hard when it was no necessary is that she will need her legs down the road.  Hopefully, she can keep it up and this fast start won't come back to haunt her.   

  2. Bob Ashpole, June 11, 2019 at 10:13 p.m.

    Well considered and written, Ian.

  3. Wilson Taguinod, June 11, 2019 at 10:33 p.m.

    I have some minor criticism for the lack of tidiness the US had on the ball considering the low level of pressure they were under.  I have some major criticism for them continuing to celebrate goals after they went up 5-0.  I thought it was classless and showed a lack of compassion for a team which was clearly overwhelmed on the pitch.

  4. Mark Landefeld replied, June 12, 2019 at 3:51 a.m.

    So how will we feel if Sweden beats them 14-0 and moves ahead of us on Goal Differential?

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, June 12, 2019 at 6:44 a.m.

    This isn't AYSO. These are professional players at the highest level of senior competition.

  6. Kent James, June 12, 2019 at 1:10 a.m.

    First of all, the finishing by the US was fantastic.  I just hope they are getting warmed up rather than using up all their good strikes in the first game!  Normally, I favor a clearly dominant team backing off a bit after the game is in hand, but this is the WC, I'm assuming goal differential matters, and the US rivals will also be playing Thailand (it may be a very long tournament for them...).  On the other hand, I do agree with Wilson about the celebration of every goal as if it were the winning goal.  But if it builds team spirit and cohesion, then I can live with it.  

    One thing I have to question is the use of VAR.  There were two very clear penalties that should have been awarded to the US.  While we clearly didn't need them, both were in the first half when it was only 2-0 (and maybe 3-0 for the 2nd one).  Again, while I get that in a lopsided game, maybe you overlook a PK being awarded to the team that is clearly going to win, but this is the WC, it wasn't that lopsided at the time, and if you're reviewing that and not seeing a penalty, it makes me question the ability of the reviewers.  

  7. Ian Plenderleith replied, June 12, 2019 at 3:45 a.m.

    Funnily enough I had an ongoing debate during the first half with a colleague in the press box about the penalties - he thought there should have been three! Looking at the replays, I thought it was correct not to award any of them, although the final call could certainly have gone either way. The less we hear from the VAR on marginal calls the better, in my view.

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, June 12, 2019 at 6:48 a.m.

    I agree with you, Ian. The non-calls were not "mistakes", although I don't think anyone would have criticized the ref for awarding a penalty on the pull down. 

  9. Kent James replied, June 12, 2019 at 3:53 p.m.

    On the first foul, the US player (I forget who it was) had her foot kicked (from behind), which tripped her. (She was also pushed from behind on the upper body, but it was hard to tell how hard she was pushed). The second penalty the US player had both of her legs taken out by a tackle that didn't get the ball. I thought they were pretty clear penalties in real time, and certainly clear on video review.  

  10. stewart hayes replied, June 13, 2019 at 3:53 p.m.

    Yes, Kent, the fouls looked pretty obvious to me especially on slow mo.  The ref did not want to pile on a weak team even though they deserved it.  This happens a lot unfortunately and is a psychological problem refs have.  They bend the rules depending on the strength of the teams.  I've seen it happen countless times.   

  11. Wilson Taguinod, June 12, 2019 at 4:26 a.m.

    I didn’t say anything about running up the score, just think the celebrations were over the top after going up by 5 - especially the one in stoppage time.

  12. Bob Ashpole replied, June 12, 2019 at 6:54 a.m.

    The goal in stoppage time was by Lloyd and set a record (scored in each of last 5 finals matches) that will likely never be broken. After Lloyd came in, especially toward the end, the team was trying to set up Lloyd for a goal, which made our play a bit predictable but understandable given the circumstances. It reminded me of when Morgan was approaching her 100th goal. 

  13. frank schoon, June 12, 2019 at 9:25 a.m.

    I have no problem scoring as many goals possible, as a buffer. But what I do have a problem with is the manner of celebration, the lack of emotional maturity and the juvenile display portrayed by a bunch of adult women in their celebration of goal-rhea. They showed a lack of professionalism and respect for their opponent, who they knew is very weak, to say the least. And furthermore didn't take into account their opponent who comes from a part of the world that deals with 'saving face',which obviously our pro-women show of having no clue.
    I didn't watch the whole game but quit watching after 3-0 for it was like kicking a dead dog out there. So I had no idea what all happened.
    I notice this morning in Taylor Twellman's tweet, blasting the womens actions on how they celebrated these goals. He is so right on! After the 5th goal , I think the women should have toned down celebration  acted more professionally.  Abby Wambaugh apparently saw nothing wrong in what these women did and  even brought up the aspect of this criticism as perhaps a "sexist' remark.
      Abby Wambaugh apparently doesn't understand that one should show  'respect' for your opponent especially when they're getting beat so bad.  You don't need to rub it in.
    I've never seen a men act like that. I can't see Messi after Barcelona score their 10th goal jump around like a little girl for joy. No, instead ,he's probably asking what am I doing here, this is no fun".

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, June 12, 2019 at 10:27 a.m.

    Now that last part Frank ("like a little girl") was sexist.

    Do you want a fired up team or a politically correct one? I see these two objectives as contradicting. When you are trying to win a trophy, mentality is everything.

    You don't see any criticism of the team's behavior after the match ended.

  15. frank schoon replied, June 12, 2019 at 11:08 a.m.

    Bob, sexist?? that's how I view the adult women acting like a little girls team that just scored.
    It is amazing that today the connotations like , sexist , homophobe, xenophobe or whatever is so quickly triggered and thrown into  a discussion.  The expression 'acting like a girl or like a girl, just happens to be is a comparison, not  meant sexist or sexual but just a comparison, nothong more, nothing less. But than again it all depends how one view and projects things

    I don't know why it has to be an either or situation, politically correct or fired up. I don't know why you bring in political correctness with anything.  You can be fired up and still remain in the bounds of respectfullness for your opponent, that's called self-discipline. 
    Like I stated , I'm not against adding goals for buffer, but it is in the manner how it done. I'm at a loss how you bring  in political correctness and mentality in this whole situation. It simple a question of behavior and understanding and self-discipline in achieving one's goal

    I don't understand what you mean about not seeing any criticism of the teams behavior after the game? As I stated I only watched 40 minutes or so.

  16. Wooden Ships replied, June 12, 2019 at 11:29 a.m.

    Agree with you Frank on how one dispatches a team in a sporting respectful manner. Our women failed in that regard. I watched the match in its entirety and increasingly cringed at their celebratory pile on. Times have changed, obviously, but I can’t imagine the Nine for Niners celebrating in similar fashion. Heather O’reilly was disappointed as well. I’m certainly pulling for the USWNT but surprised at their and Ellis’ indifference to how champions normally conduct themselves in an obvious mismatch. 

  17. Wooden Ships replied, June 12, 2019 at 11:36 a.m.

    Bob, yes, the US women were consoling post match and that was good. At that point it was the least or best they could do. I’d be on the look out for Karma going forward. 

  18. frank schoon replied, June 12, 2019 at 11:59 a.m.

    Ships, You know the only time I might accept what these girls did is,Picture this scenario... Suppose all the games have been played, and we're in the championship semi-finals and we know that we HAVE to score 13 goals ,which is a lot, but we have a chance to go to the finals if we achieve it. Now here at this stage, I would be sitting at the edge of my chair seeing, forgetting all the niceties ,perhaps, and see myself cheering for every goal...
    Remember the '78 world cup in which Argentiana had to score 6 goals to play Holland in the finals. Well Argentina got 6 goals against of which we years later found that paid the Peruvian team to lose by 6goals.
    Well, anyway,we both have had the experiences in the past, the ups and downs of losing and winning the emotional experiences that we know how it feels to be on the losing side and appreciate the winning opponent in their conduct towards us. 
    I had a men's team that still has the record in Northern Va. in scoring the most goals held back in the 70s. We scored 17 goals but I was yelling at my players who smelled blood  for they all wanted to score. This meant they left their positions, willy nilly, lacking playing discipline . I was so ticked off after the game at these guys for they were so giddy, for it meant they didn't learn anything from this game. The following week I was in Europe,  and they lost 1-0 against the worst team. They then finally realized and understood why I was so mad. 
    You're right about Ellis reaction, I don't understand it either...

  19. frank schoon replied, June 12, 2019 at 12:12 p.m.

     The consoling of the women towards the losing team  is what you're suppose to do  after the game ,especially when your the big winner. 

  20. Bob Ashpole replied, June 12, 2019 at 12:13 p.m.

    I see the spate of criticism on social media to the lopsided victory as the equivilent to asking Usain Bolt to slow down so he only wins a 100 yard dash by a step to avoid hurting the other sprinter's feelings. 

    I realize here that the criticism was directed at the goal celebrations, but I don't see it as a problem. It isn't like they were taunting or mocking the opponent. 

    Would I have done it myself. Probably not. My "celebrations" were relatively low key pats on the back, a word of congratulations, a thank you for the assist, a simple fist pump or just a big grin.

    One of my favorite commercials is a pro player correcting his toddler son's goal celebration telling him he should keep it low key to send the message that scoring goals is routine stuff. Now that is real conceit.

  21. frank schoon replied, June 12, 2019 at 12:35 p.m.

    Bob, I think the celebrations had to do with the frequency. I mean, the second half the US scored 10 goals which means every 4minutes on average a goal is scored. I'm sure the Thailand women were already embarrassed in front this large crowd, besides seeing those celebrations as if it was only one goal scored, didn't help either

  22. frank schoon, June 12, 2019 at 12:21 p.m.

    Bob ,Ships, Fifa has decided to instill  street soccer culture...I read this yesterday. It is a new program

  23. frank schoon replied, June 12, 2019 at 12:27 p.m.

    Sorry, I misread is more about video street soccer....

  24. Bob Ashpole replied, June 12, 2019 at 12:40 p.m.

    Ha Ha! Sign of the times. I gave up responding to people who suggested that playing video soccer games was good training for developing soccer players. That is wrong on so many levels.

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