Top Ten Moments In Women’s Soccer: SheBelieves, Hope Solo, More

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by TOM SLATER 

This year in women’s soccer was as diverse as the women playing the game. There were victories and defeats – and even a few draws in there. There were personality players galore, great moments and things that just made you shake your head.

In an effort to look back on 2016, Empire of Soccer lists the top 10 moments in women’s soccer. While only choosing 10, there are bound to be moments left out. Not everyone will agree with this list. In fact, many probably won’t. And that’s ok.

Today, we’ll look at soccer moments 8,9,10

Number 10: US Wins first SheBelieves Cup

For 25 years, the United States has played in the prestigious Algarve Cup in Portugal, winning the tournament 10 times.

However, in 2016, the United States sponsored and hosted a four-team tournament that brought four of the top five teams in the world. The concept was first-rate and the matches didn’t disappoint.

The United States won all three games, giving up only one goal for the entire tournament.

The Americans won their first two matches by 1-0 scores, beating both England and France. Crystal Dunn scored in the 72nd minute against England for the game’s only goal. Alex Morgan scored a magnificent goal in second-half stoppage time.

Germany also won its first two games, beating France, 1-0, and England, 2-1.

That set up the third set of matches in the round-robin format, and to everyone’s good fortune, it matched the top two teams in the tournament against each other.

Germany scored first on a finish from Amja Mittag. The Americans evened the score six minutes later. Meghan Klingenberg evaded one defender and lofted a through ball into the left side of the Germany box for a sprinting Alex Morgan, who let the ball bounce twice before lifting it over a defender with her left foot and ripping a right-footed shot into the net in two fluid steps for the equalizer.

 

Sam Mewis scored the game-winner in the 41st minute on a solo effort. Mewis picked the pocket of German midfielder Melanie Behringer and pushed forward to the top of the Germany penalty box. Mewis then sent a left-footed shot from just over 20 yards out that deflected off a Germany defender and spun underneath German goalkeeper Almuth Schult.

The second SheBelieves Cup is tentatively set for this March, reportedly on the East Coast. The same four teams will be invited.

Number 9: Flash wins NWSL title in dramatic style

After a tough summer with Olympic disappointment, off-field issues with Megan Rapinoe and book deals from Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd, the NWSL finished up with tremendous semifinal matches and a heart-stopping final.

Both semifinal matches went to extra time. The fourth-seeded Western New York Flash beat host and top seed Portland, 4-3, on a pair of extra time goals by Lynn Williams.  The Washington Spirit also needed extra time to beat Chicago, 2-1. Francisca Ordega scored in the 111th minute after Ali Kreiger and Christen Press swapped goals in regulation.

The final had a little bit of everything. The Flash, who limped into post-season by winning its final game of the regular season to snap a seven-game winless streak, again needed extra time and a last minute miracle from Williams. Their coach, Paul Riley, was ejected in the semifinal victory.

Crystal Dunn, who had a quiet regular season following her MVP campaign in 2015,  opened the scoring for the Spirit in the ninth minute. Sam Mewis put the Flash level in the 14th minute.

After a scoreless second half, Dunn scored again in the first minute of extra time and it appeared that the Spirit would take away their first championship. But Williams, the 2016 MVP, scored with seconds remaining in the match, converting a serve from teammate Jessica McDonald.

Western New York goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo stepped up as the hero in the penalty kick shootout. She made three of five saves, including the final one off the foot of Diana Matheson that gave the Flash the title.

Number 8: The Hope Solo Drama

It was bad enough that the United States dropped a penalty kick shootout to Sweden and was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics, the earliest exit ever by the Americans in a big tournament. Count on the ever-controversial goalkeeper to make the situation worse. In the interview room immediately following the loss, Solo answered the simple question ‘what are thoughts on the game?” with a long, rambling monologue that criticized Sweden and it’s coach Pia Sundhage for its bunker mentality strategy in keeping the United States team under wraps and accused the Swedes of being cowards.

Solo’s comments were a lightning rod for controversy.  However, she had few supporters on social media, including her own team and former US players.

The loss ended a weird summer for Solo as well. She earned her 100th shutout and 150th win just a month before the Olympics — making her the leader in shutouts for men or women internationals. But the Olympics began ominously for her with a badly timed tweet about Zika prevention that turned the Brazilian crowed against her from the opening whistle of game 1 against New Zealand. The jeers of “Zika, Zika’ could be heard clearly very time Solo touched the ball.

US Soccer suspended Solo for behavior that was unacceptable and that did not meet the standard of conduct required of a federation player. Her suspension was for six months but her contract was also terminated, making her future with the American team unlikely at best.

By the way, this wasn’t the first time Solo followed a loss on the international scene with a tirade for the media. After a 4-0 loss to Brazil in the 2007 World Cup, where she was benched in favor of Briana Scurry, Solo went on a rant to the media, criticizing then coach Greg Ryan for making the wrong choice. Ironically, it was Sundhage, replacing Ryan as coach, who helped mend hurt feelings and bring Solo back into the fold.

After her latest tirade, Sundhage wasn’t upset at all. “I don’t give a crap what Hope said,” Sundhage said. “I’m going to Rio. She’s going home.”