U.S. Women's National Team
O'Reilly Retires, Rapinoe Kneels, Yanks Dominate
September 16, 2016
IN ITS FIRST MATCH since being knocked out of the 2016 Olympics, the United States women’s national team trounced Thailand 9-0 on Wednesday night in Columbus, Ohio.
After tallying four times in the first half, the Americans added five more in the second stanza for the win. Carli Lloyd (3), Christen Press, Heather O’Reilly, Tobin Heath, Crystal Dunn, and Alex Morgan (2) all scored in the contest.
Here are three thoughts on the game.
THE FEEL GOOD MOMENT
U.S. Soccer honored O’Reilly on Wednesday evening as the midfielder retired from international play. Marked by success from start to finish, her career with the U.S. included three Olympic titles, a World Cup championship, and an amazing 231 caps.
Against Thailand, O’Reilly started on the wing for the Americans and captained the squad. She also contributed heavily to the U.S.’ early lead, assisting on the opening goal and knocking in one of her own—both inside the first five minutes of play.
HAO to Lloyd. pic.twitter.com/3J8I9N8Lmg— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) September 16, 2016
With the emergence of players like Mallory Pugh and Dunn, O’Reilly finished her career this summer as an Olympic alternate. However, the consummate team player took on the role with class and now enters into the pantheon of retired U.S. legends.
THE CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT
Ahead of the match against Thailand, much of the pregame attention focused on Megan Rapinoe. After kneeling during the national anthem ahead of a club match two weeks ago in Chicago, Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch usurped Rapinoe’s opportunity to do so again a week later, playing the anthem while the teams were still in the locker room.
Then, on Sunday, Rapinoe stood during the anthem in Seattle before a match played on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
When the anthem played on Wednesday in Columbus, however, Rapinoe knelt again, setting off a new firestorm of debate.
Regardless of one’s opinion on the matter, kneeling during a national team contest carries a different weight for many fans than doing so during a club match.
Before the match against Thailand, Ellis stated that standing during the national anthem was an “expectation” for a national team player. The coach also indicated that Rapinoe shouldn’t be drawing attention away from the team with an individual protest.
“What I always think about is the team, ahead of an individual agenda,” said Ellis. “There’s a myriad of things our players are concerned about, but I also think that when you bring it to a team environment, you bring it to everybody and people that maybe don’t even want to be involved in that discussion. For me personally, when it comes to utilizing a team platform for an individual agenda, I will always put team first and would want the individuals to put team first.”
Ellis further stated that if Rapinoe knelt, the two would have a conversation before Ellis determined what action she would take in response.
Jill Ellis still standing foolishly firm: If Rapinoe does kneel that "it warrants a determination" on moving forward pic.twitter.com/ANv5QopjFU— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) September 16, 2016
THE GAME ITSELF
It’s pretty hard to take anything serious away from such a lopsided game, especially one in which the U.S. led 3-0 within the first five minutes.
Ashlyn Harris started the match in goal for Hope Solo, while Ali Krieger replaced Meghan Klingenberg at outside back. Press started up top for Morgan and Olympic alternate Sam Mewis got the nod at center mid.
In the second half, Ellis made liberal use of her substitutes, putting in Rapinoe, Morgan, Klingenberg, Lindsey Horan, Emily Sonnett, and Dunn.
One positive that can be taken away is the eagerness the Americans displayed in jumping out to such a big lead as early as they did. Wanting to wipe away the stain of their quarterfinal Olympic exit, the U.S. made sure right from the kickoff to assert their dominance and begin the long, three-year haul toward the 2019 World Cup in France.
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.