With the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in full force, the United States women's national team has lived up to the hype thus far with a 13-0 victory against Thailand and 3-0 decision against Chile.
Navy women's soccer coach Carin Gabarra and former Maryland women's soccer coach Shannon Higgins-Cirovski were part of the national team that won the 1991 World Cup and are now members of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Both are pleased with the team's results so far and believe its dominant ways should continue.
Throughout the group stage of the World Cup, much has been made about the USWNT's first match against Thailand and whether or not it was appropriate for the Americans to run up the score the way they did. Conventional wisdom says it was completely warranted; goal differential is a tiebreaker in the World Cup, and those extra goals could become useful down the line. But that has not stopped critics of the team from saying that it was the wrong decision.
"I do see both sides of it. Maybe after a certain score it can be a bit disrespectful but these players have trained their whole lives for this," Gabarra said on Glenn Clark Radio June 17. "Alex Morgan said it publicly, how it is disrespectful to pretend it's not happening and not score goals and celebrate. [Thailand is] there, they know who they are playing and maybe they get better from that.
"Some of these players did not even make the roster in 2015, and they have been training for four years hoping for this moment and you're gonna tell them, 'Oh, by the way, don't smile'. It's a hard thing to navigate."
On the contrary, Higgins-Cirovski felt a bit different about the match against Thailand.
"I'm torn," Higgins-Cirovski said June 12. "Once you reach that double-digit mark, it's salt in the wound."
The Thailand match aside, the USWNT has still been drawing lots of attention from the media and fans given the high expectations for the team following its World Cup triumph in 2015. Gabarra believes this attention is a positive for the team, regardless if some of the attention is negative.
Some of the stars that have been receiving lots of media attention include forwards Carli Lloyd and Morgan. Morgan scored an astounding five goals in the opener against Thailand. Lloyd -- the winner of the 2015 World Cup Golden Ball Award, given to the best player in the tournament -- scored a goal against Thailand and added two more against Chile.
"All the press, both positive and negative, is only bringing more attention toward our sport," Gabarra said.
Gabarra and Higgins-Cirovski like the USWNT's chances to repeat as World Cup champions, but realize that the competition is much tougher than it has been in years past. Many nations have invested more resources in women's soccer and the results have shown on the field.
"It's hard to go in on top. There's no place to go except for people to question you. [The U.S. has] all the pieces and tools to win championships," Higgins-Cirovski said. "The problem is how much better France, Germany, Australia and England have gotten over the course of all these years."
On June 20, the squad will finish group play against Sweden, a team that dealt the U.S. a shocking loss during the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympics. Both teams have already advanced to the Round of 16, but whichever team wins could have a tougher road to the finals because of a potential quarterfinal matchup with France, the host country and perennial powerhouse. U.S. players have insisted that they want to win no matter what and do not care about potential matchups down the road.
"The thing I like about this group is that they are one of the deepest teams we have ever had. I also think that their team camaraderie, and each of the players' abilities to see the big picture and put the team before themselves is huge," Gabarra said. "They all want to be there. This is their chance."
To hear more from Gabarra and Higgins-Cirovski, listen to the full interviews here:
Photo Credit: Phil Hoffmann/Navy Athletics