If there is any consolation in heartbreak, though, the quest for a title unquestionably united a nation and drew attention to a team sport – let alone a women’s sport – we often neglect. All too often, both soccer and women’s athletics are written off, but with Hope Solo and company, the U.S. national team managed to do what few other teams have been able to accomplish – make themselves noticed with nothing less than class and confidence. So despite a bitter taste in their mouths, the U.S. women may have earned a victory far greater than a single match.
Seemingly forgotten in the collapse of our national team, the Japanese women deserve credit for their determination in a 2-2 (3-1) penalty shootout win over a strong U.S. team, although clearly the U.S. women had fate in their own hands and simply lost the match. That being said, Japan needs the triumph far more than we do, in the aftermath of their earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. For the U.S. and Japan, the underlying theme of this World Cup has to be that their victories will instill optimism and resolve, albeit in totally different ways and yet in exactly the same way, as well.
The women on the U.S. national team became known across the nation as “our team,” but more importantly, they assumed the crucial responsibility of being athlete role models for young girls who are constantly threatened by the negative, or perhaps worse, by being ignored. Soccer, too, even with its amazing history and an even more impressive world following, is in need of some respect in this country. Promoting soccer to our youth, while somewhat successful, has clearly not been enough to win over the adult sports fan.
Perhaps this U.S. women’s national soccer team, which made it all the way to the finals with “Hope” will be the beginning of an American embrace of the global team sport and of women’s athletic teams. Why should the greatest sports fans in the world continue to miss out on such an exhilarating game and such truly inspiring sports icons?