Carli Lloyd had just scored on an 18-yard volley to put the United States ahead 11 minutes in against Chile. After leaping, pumping a fist and hugging teammate Lindsey Horan, she raised both hands chin high and made four tiny pitter-patter claps, the type seen more frequently at Pebble Beach than Parc des Princes.
A message? You bet.
Easy wins and lots of goals are par for the course when it comes to the U.S. women’s national team.
“I can’t take credit for it. I’m not sure if Lindsey is taking credit for it,” Lloyd said after a 3-0 victory Sunday night advanced the U.S. to the round of 16. “She had told me if we score, that’s what we’re going to do so I just went along with it after I did my little celebration But it was fun. I think it made a statement on the sideline there. It was cool.”
A record-setting 13-0 rout of Thailand that opened the tournament for the Americans sparked a debate back home. Celebration had not been discussed this much since Kool & the Gang. Some cried poor sportsmanship. Others argued players shouldn’t be asked to let up on soccer’s biggest stage.
All the harrumphing was heard across the Atlantic.
“I guess we could have just passed it around the back for a million times, but that’s boring. That’s disrespectful to everyone: fans, ourselves,” said veteran Megan Rapinoe. “The only thing you ask of an athlete really is to put it all out there and do the best you can. It’s not in our DNA ever.”
Horan said Emily Sonnett, a 25-year-old defender at her first World Cup, suggested responses. Trolling critics was the goal.
“We decided to do something different today,” Horan said with an impish smile. “Handshakes were part of it. Golf clap was part of it.”
Coach Jill Ellis speculated Lloyd’s inspiration was her spouse, professional golfer Brian Hollins.
“I’m guessing it was a shout-out to her husband,” Ellis said.
The 13 goals against Thailand did pay off in the end, after Sweden also won Sunday — they give the U.S. a superior goal difference, allowing the Americans to win the group should Thursday’s final group-stage game against the Swedes end in a draw.
But winning the group likely would put the U.S. on track for a quarterfinal matchup against host France in Paris. Ellis would not speculate whether her team would be better off finishing second and winding up in the other half of the bracket.
“There’s a lot of grass to navigate between now and potential matchups,” she said. “This game is a crazy game, and you have to bring it every single match.”
No team has won consecutive Women’s World Cups since the event began in 1991, a reason for sangfroid.
“We’re climbing up a mountain now,” Lloyd said, “and it’s only going to get harder.”