US catch­ing heat for goal cel­e­bra­tions in rout

The News-Times - - SPORTS -

REIMS, France — The goals were one thing, the cel­e­bra­tions another.

The U.S. women’s na­tional team faced crit­i­cism fol­low­ing its record-break­ing 13-0 rout of Thai­land on Tues­day night. The win set a World Cup record for goals and mar­gin of vic­tory. Alex Mor­gan alone had five goals, match­ing the most in one game in tour­na­ment his­tory.

But there were ques­tions about whether the Amer­i­cans should have cel­e­brated goals once the game was well in hand. Were the three-time World Cup cham­pi­ons be­ing un­sports­man­like, or merely send­ing a mes­sage to the rest of the field?

Alex Mor­gan was asked after­ward about the dis­play of hugs, high-fives, and pos­tur­ing for the many Amer­i­can fans at Stade Au­guste-De­laune.

“I think in the mo­ment, every time we score a goal in a World Cup — you’ve dreamt of it. I dreamt of it since I was a lit­tle girl,” she said. “You know, win­ning a World Cup and be­ing back there for the third time, we want that fourth star. So tonight we knew that any goal could mat­ter in this group-stage game. And when it comes to cel­e­bra­tions, I think this was a re­ally good team per­for­mance and I think it was im­por­tant for us to cel­e­brate to­gether.”

Those cel­e­bra­tions drew ire on so­cial me­dia, some of it di­rected at veteran Me­gan Rapi­noe for twirling and turf-slid­ing af­ter her goal — which made it 9-0. A World Cup-record seven U.S. play­ers scored in the game.

Mor­gan was re­buked for hold­ing up four fin­gers af­ter her fourth goal, which made it 10-0.

“A lot of this is about build­ing mo­men­tum and so as a coach I don’t find it my job to rein my play­ers in,” coach Jill El­lis said. “This is what they’ve dreamt about. This is for them. This is a world cham­pi­onship”

Rapi­noe, in­ter­viewed on FOX Sports on Wed­nes­day, also ad­dressed the crit­i­cism.

“If anyone wants to come at our team for not doing the right thing, not play­ing the right way, not be­ing a good am­bas­sador, they can come at us. It was an ex­plo­sion of joy,” she said. “If our crime is joy, then we will take that.”

Rapi­noe pointed to the team’s young play­ers who scored their first World Cup goals and said they had every right to cel­e­brate, in­clud­ing Sa­man­tha Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Mal­lory Pugh and Lind­sey Ho­ran.

In a postgame show of sports­man­ship, the U.S. team also con­soled some of the emo­tional Thai play­ers. Mor­gan of­fered en­cour­age­ment to for­ward Miranda Nild, who like Mor­gan played col­lege soc­cer at Cal.

Thai­land’s play­ers were dis­ap­pointed, but they have also been on the other end of blowouts. Thai­land won a friendly over In­done­sia 13-0 last year, and beat Cam­bo­dia 11-0 in the group stage of the AFF Women’s Cham­pi­onship.

“In foot­ball games, ev­ery­body is fol­low­ing the rules, and every­one is try­ing their best,” Thai­land coach Nuen­gru­tai Srathong­vian said. “We have to ac­cept that, this team is very good. We don’t have any ex­cuse, ex­cept they are bet­ter.”

Cel­e­brat­ing and pil­ing on the goals are re­ally two dif­fer­ent is­sues.

At the World Cup, goal dif­fer­en­tial be­comes im­por­tant in de­cid­ing tie-break­ers for the knock­out stage. The U.S. team is in a group with neme­sis Swe­den, as well as Thai­land and Chile.

It was un­der­stood that the top-ranked Amer­i­cans would likely trounce Thai­land, ranked 34th in the world, and pos­si­bly No. 39 Chile, which is mak­ing its World Cup debut. The game with Chile is set for Sun­day in Paris.

The United States faces Swe­den in the fi­nal game of the group stage next week. It is their first meet­ing since the Swedes ousted the Amer­i­cans from the 2016 Olympics in the quar­ter­fi­nals — the team’s ear­li­est exit ever. Swe­den bunkered on de­fense and after­ward then-U.S. goal­keeper Hope Solo called the team cow­ards.

Cur­rently ranked No. 9, Swe­den de­feated Chile 2-0 in Rennes on Tues­day night and will play Thai­land in Nice on Sun­day.

The United States did have its de­fend­ers, in­clud­ing a fa­mil­iar one.

“For all that have is­sue with many goals: for some play­ers this is their first World Cup goal, and they should be ex­cited,” for­mer U.S. team­mate Abby Wam­bach tweeted. “Imag­ine it be­ing you out there. This is your dream of play­ing and then scor­ing in a World Cup. Cel­e­brate. Would you tell a men’s team to not score or cel­e­brate?”

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