It stung. It still was stinging. Every time I heard the sound of the ball hitting the upper left corner of the net, it sent chills down my spine. I looked down, I cringed. I couldn’t help it. There wasn’t a team that I’d rather have win if the U.S. had to lose, but that still didn’t mean it hurt any less. 2011 may have been Japan’s year, but that didn’t mean 2012 wouldn’t be ours.
Redemption, revenge, whatever you want to call it, the USWNT went into 2012 with one goal. Show the world they’re still number one. They buckled down, pressed forward, pushed themselves harder than they ever had before, and went head first in to competition making sure they did whatever it took to make it to the Olympics. 38-0. 38, that’s how many goals they scored. 0 goals, that’s how many goals they allowed in CONCACAF Qualifying.
We look at what all the achievements the USWNT had this year. Gold medal, only one loss, Volvo Cup Champions, undefeated Celebration Tour, 55 goals scored between Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan; it’s easy to forget everything the USWNT had to persevere through.
Ali Krieger tore her MCL and ACL in their first match of qualifying, they went down 2 goals against France in their opening match of London 2012, they lost against Japan early on, there were a lot of questions surrounding the backline, all this pressure was on the team heading into the Olympics. The USWNT has always had a storied program, never falling under second in the FIFA rankings. Everybody for the longest time had always assumed that they would win the gold in either the Olympics or World Cup. But several teams popped up on the radar, France, Japan, Sweden, teams that maybe didn’t always get the attention broke through and were threats. Heading into the Olympics, many people started to question if the USWNT could do it again, for the 3rd time in a row. They all hushed the critics with a 6-0 run scoring 16 goals and only allowing 6 in the Olympics.
Mia Hamm a legend of women’s soccer said it best. “True champions aren’t always the ones that win, but those with the most guts.” That’s exactly what this team had this year, not only on the field, but off. Possibly one of the most influential stories came with Megan Rapinoe. She came out to the world, knowing all eyes would be on her and her teammates in less than a month. She said, “For the record, I’m gay.” Coming out is hard when parts of society don’t fully accept it; in the sports world it’s harder. Sports are still a bit homophobic, but what Megan did was not only brave, but it changed the dynamic of women’s sports. She’s breaking down barriers, she’s proud to be who she is, and that’s something she can always hold on to. She won’t be able to play soccer forever, but she can hold onto the fact that she impacted the world. She is the reason that many young LGBTQ youth athletes are accepting of who they are. If their role model, an athlete representing her country, can come out and be proud, they can too.
2012 also was the berth of a dynamic duo that the game of soccer maybe hasn’t ever seen before. The A-Team. Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan combined for 55 goals. Abby, at age 32, scored 27 goals. Alex, at age 23, scored 28. Alex also assisted 21 goals while Abby assisted 8. Both are nominated for the FIFA Ballon d’Or award, and both deserve it. Abby has been such a leader on the field for the U.S. and Alex is paving her way to become one. There is just no way to stop them. You can push and pull, tackle and slide, but one way or another they’ll get by you. That’s what they showed in 2012. From the very beginning of the year, everyone sensed something special was about to happen. Did anyone expect 55 goals to come out of this duo? No, but it was simply amazing to watch.
Enjoy the journey. Christie Rampone said her New Year’s Resolution at the beginning of 2012 was to enjoy the journey up to the Olympics. Each player embraced their role and won gold together. Sometimes we get caught up in an individual person’s performance and fail to acknowledge those who played a role too. And sometimes we get so caught up in a game that we feel what those players are feeling too. It’s real, raw emotion. It’s how you can tell you’re a true fan. And that’s why I thank this team so much. That’s why I stand in their corner every day. This team is the epitome class. I am so grateful that they continue to take us on the journey with them. They don’t have to let us in on their lives, they don’t have to stay after games for hours signing autographs for thousands of adoring fans, they don’t have to do any of this. But they chose to, not because they feel the need to, like if they don’t all the fans will leave, they do because they want to. And that’s special.
After the 2011 loss, some players said they didn’t know how long it would take to move on, a devastating loss, a tournament they poured their heart into, and it looked as if they might not ever move on; until 2012 came along. We saw a fire, a spark, a light in each player, to somehow keep marching on. From the fields of Old Trafford to Hampden Park and Wembley, the USWNT left all they had on the field. Their proof, a gold medal hanging around their necks.
2012 was a year to remember. Alex Morgan made a name for herself, Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe burst on the scene, and the USWNT finally redeemed themselves. Instead of hanging their heads, they worked, they practiced, they trained, they played, and they won. Thank you to every player for always making us smile, for never giving up, and most importantly, for being the epitome of sportsmanship, class, strength, and for giving us a year to remember. I know I’m looking forwards to a bright future, but if this team has taught me anything it’s to live in the moment, to never give in or give up, dream big, and to always enjoy the journey. No team has as much tribulations or obstacles as the USWNT. Then again, no team has so many players with never ending hope, determination, and perseverance. That’s not something you can coach. That’s not something you can practice. That’s a gift that you’re born with. It’s gift that few people possess. And maybe that’s something a little more valuable, a little more special, than an Olympic gold medal.
A-Rod’s 100th cap.
She was a beast this game. As the usual though.
She had some good chances, also a extremely vocal leader. I could hear her from the 26th row up, and over 17,300 people.
Captain America taking a free kick. The US had a lot of set pieces.
Always fun to watch.
Hope came up huge this game. She was on fire.
Waiting for the throw in.
Amy LePeilbet guarding our near post on a corner kick. Or hiding. But I’m pretty sure she was ready for anything.
Our back line. Sorry #6, only got your legs…
Directing the box.