On Tuesday afternoon, the US Women’s National Soccer Team defeated England 2-1 in a thrilling finish that included a saved penalty kick late.
The team became the first team ever to advance to their third straight World Cup Final where they will face either Sweden or the Netherlands, depending on who wins in their semifinal match on Wednesday. During a generally slow period in the sports world in the summer, the US team has again gripped the attention of the whole nation and provided a reason for everyone to celebrate.
The match on Tuesday was an instant classic. The US team continued their streak of scoring within the first 12 minutes of every match in the tournament. With about eight minutes to go and the US ahead 2-1, US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher stopped the penalty shot from England’s Steph Houghton in what became the defining moment of the match. Star Alex Morgan also scored a goal on her 30thbirthday. The USWNT’s ability to absorb the pressure and continue to deliver on the world’s biggest stage is remarkable. As the women approach another World Cup Final match, the comparisons to the 2015 World Cup winning team continue. This week’s debate asks which team was a better collection of talent overall, 2015 or this year’s 2019 team?
Side 1: The 2015 Cup Winning Team Was Better
As we patiently wait on the results of this year’s team, the 2015 team can confidently lay claim as the best team in the world at the time. This team accomplished the incredible feat of leading the US in becoming the first country to win three Women’s World Cups. This team was loaded with talent from top to bottom. They defeated Japan 5-2 in the final in Canada and Carli Lloyd netted a hat trick in the match. Lloyd also became the first US Women’s player to score in four straight World Cup games.
Where this team seemed to have a huge advantage over the current team was in goaltending with Hope Solo. Solo was undoubtedly the best goalkeeper in the world at the time and helped the US win games that they might have drawn or lost with anyone else in goal. What made Solo incredible during this run was her reliability and consistency. She is one of the most famous players in USWNT history and for good reason.
Another area of strength for the 2015 was their overall defense. Solo locked up the goal, but teams rarely had good looks at the goal due to the strong defenders that the team put out. Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Ertz were instrumental in leading this consistent defense. In the 2015 World Cup, the US went an astounding 540 minutes without letting up a single goal.
Side 2: This Year’s Team Is Definitely Better
This year’s team has had an interesting balance of dominating blowouts and heart stopping nail biters. They blew through group play without facing much resistance at all. After beating England 2-1 on Tuesday, they are headed for the World Cup final Sunday where they have a chance to win yet again. The match against England was the most recent, and most suspenseful of three consecutive 2-1 wins. The team also faced close tests against France and Spain. Ultimately, if the US can win Sunday, no one will care about the margin of victory: the USWNT will be World Cup champions again.
The major advantage of this year’s team is their explosiveness and offensive power. This power was on display during an unbelievable 13-0 rout of Thailand on June 11th. They have an advantage over the 2015 team when it comes to the forwards. The US attack this year has been as dominant as it’s ever been. Back in 2015, Morgan was coming off an injury and at some points in the tournament, the US struggled to find goals without her. This year, she is in top form and has dominated the tournament so far. The pleasant surprise of the tournament has been Megan Rapinoe. Rapinoe shockingly missed today’s match against England, but she has still been dominant throughout the tournament. Coming into today’s match, she had all four US goals in knockout rounds and five for the tournament overall. Her status for Sunday’s World Cup Final will be a huge storyline over the next couple of days.
In terms of coaching, the name is the same, but this year’s team seems to have a coaching advantage due to experience. In 2015, Jill Ellis had only been with the team for about a year and didn’t have a ton of time to evaluate talent and bring new players in. Having had more time to work with the team this year, Ellis has adapted her team to be more flexible and versatile and the results have proved it.
Without knowing the results of this coming match on Sunday, it’s tough to stake a strong claim as either team being clearly better. However, that is the nature of debate. They often explore and incorporate the unknown and things that can never be definitively proven. If the US captures another women’s World Cup Sunday, this very debate is sure to pick up some steam, as both teams would have won World Cups. However, if the US fails to win Sunday, I think it would be obvious that the 2015 team was both more talented and more successful. For now, I am going to say this year’s team is better. I think they are more experienced, as they have multiple players who have played in three or more world cups for the US. They have more offensive firepower and have found crafty ways to win close matches. However, it all comes down to Sunday and if the ladies can bring home yet another World Cup trophy.
What do YOU think? Which team is better overall and why?
NBA expert and IU grad. '96 Bulls > Warriors. #FireGarPax