Megan Rapinoe struck once more from the penalty spot in the 61st minute after Alex Morgan was kicked up high on her arm by Stefanie van der Gragt. Rose Lavelle cruised through the Dutch backline eight minutes later for the insurance goal as USWNT completed dominant World Cup title run.
After a scoreless opening half hour of play, the match seemed destined to remain a neck and neck affair. However, during the final 15-20 minutes of the first half, the USWNT created five nearly lethal chances to crack open the scoring column.
Netherlands keeper Sari van Veenendaal earned four saves while Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz threatened before the half. Morgan and Ertz helped create four corner kick opportunities as well in those last 15 minutes of play. USA fans were starving for a goal by the time the halftime whistle blew.
Only one negative resulted through the first 45 minutes. Veteran USWNT outside back Kelly O’Hara collided quite viciously with Netherlands playmaker Lieke Martens. The blow forced both to the sidelines and ultimately cost O’Hara the opportunity to play in the second half.
But USWNT Head Coach Jill Ellis crafted her roster with instances like the O’Hara injury in mind. Off the bench came 34-year old defender Ali Krieger to hold down the fort. And hold down the fort she did. Krieger, heavily seasoned with over 105 appearances in the red, white, and blue, locked down the right wing. Her defensive efforts and passing decisions helped prevent the Netherlands from scoring to start the second half and also maintain the two-goal lead later on in the half.
The midfield trio of Ertz, Lavelle, and Sam Mewis provided Ellis’ group with some much-needed control in the center of the pitch.
At times, Ertz dominated the middle of the pitch sprinting back to break up plays while remaining a force in the box offensively. Mewis excelled by covering large swaths of ground defensively while navigating to open areas of the pitch to help with build-up play. And finally, Lavelle and her blazing speed and crafty creativity on the ball provided the ultimate spark for USWNT.
Lavelle showcased an undying engine all match, popping up all over the field. A true box-to-box midfielder, Lavelle displayed some great passing and field vision to prevent the Dutch from disrupting play.
The control in the center of the park from Ertz, Lavelle, and Mewis was crucial. As was the offensive performances from Tobin Heath and the always impressive Rapinoe. Both Heath and Rapinoe helped to create width in the attacking third which allowed USWNT midfielders to float forward into space.
While Morgan didn’t appear on the score sheet, her off the ball runs and her willingness to sacrifice her body for the team remained an important part of the puzzle.
Now, Ellis and the USWNT can enjoy the much-deserved spotlight after winning their second consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup title while shattering the record for most goals in a Women’s World Cup with 26.
Time to rejoice for Rapinoe and company. Today is the USWNT’s day.
Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports