By Mackenzie Cutruzzula
The names Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach can finally take their respective places in history — next to Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain — as legends. They will no longer be compared to the veteran players. There is no doubt that the 2015 United States Women’s National Team has the same excitement, theatrics and following that the 1999 World Cup winning team had, but after the FIFA Women’s World Cup final on Sunday, July 5, the team has finally set themselves apart.
In a story all their own, 23 players set out to take back the World Cup title from the defending champions, Japan — who beat the United States in the final four years ago. The group was a perfect blend of new players and veterans that knew they were playing for more than just the Cup — they were playing for vengeance. Four years ago the team was a scrappy bunch trying to make a name for themselves. Now,with that name in place, the players looked to lock down their place in soccer history. This time around the team faced backlash for being tough both on and off the field, they were seen as brash rather than strong. They didn’t care. They shook off any negativity and played the game their way and that is what set them apart.
I cannot wait for the Disney “based on a true story” film about this team because the story is just that good. At the forefront of the film is of course Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach. Lloyd, ready to take her spot as the leader of the team, and Wambach, trying to seize her last chance at victory before being overrun by the younger, faster players. The two serious and intense heroines would rival that of “Frozen” in the best way.
Lloyd’s explosive final game was captivating and filled with the American spirit — come out fast and hit them hard. Three goals in 16 minutes put the 1999 team out of everyone’s head for at least a minute. When she managed to score from the midfield line the Jersey girl set the tone that the team wasn’t holding back. She reminded those who don’t always believe in her, why she has a spot on that field.
More captivating than Lloyd’s hat trick was the captain’s armband exchange between her and Wambach when the veteran entered the field. It was a small moment that drove home a big point. Wambach, known for her loud personality, handled herself with grace throughout the tournament. The heroine of the last World Cup, her wisdom and attitude led the team to victory, even with her minimized presence on the field. To have that kind of impact on younger players from the sideline justifies Lloyd’s exchange because Wambach is a true captain. Wambach knew her last tournament as a USWNT player wouldn’t put as big a spotlight on her this time around, but she continued to give her all with the time she was given.
The exchange was a moment that me cry because I knew the journey that I had followed for the last 16 years was getting its happy ending. Four years ago, during the final moments against Japan I was screaming, crying, jumping on a couch yelling, “Get the ball to Abby’s head!” This time around, I took the final moments to appreciate all that my heroines had done for it to be their time, watching Christie Rampone and Wambach take the stage one last time as players like Alex Morgan and Morgan Brian get ready to write a new story with their names in the forefront.
The group that started as the scrappy youngsters with a few mixed in veterans now has a new frontier to conquer. They are losing important players, but they know they have a strong foundation in place for their sequel, “The Defenders.” The “2015s” have their moment to celebrate and tell their tale, but in the back of their minds they are already thinking about becoming the “2019s.” No matter what, these women will continue to inspire a nation and excite the world.