USWNT hoping to 'find joy in the game' for crucial Sweden match

USWNT hoping to ‘discover pleasure within the recreation’ for essential Sweden match

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — For all 23 girls on the U.S. nationwide workforce, the journey right here started the identical approach.

They have been all as soon as little ladies who fell in love with a ball, with the liberty or escape {that a} soccer area afforded them, with the sensation of turning into a superb participant, with the way in which friendships have been fashioned across the recreation. 

Eventually, all of them additionally dreamed of reaching the top of their sport: the World Cup. 

All of them have realized that dream. However being a member of probably the most profitable squad in match historical past can also be an unlimited, daunting accountability. The expectations inside and outdoors the USWNT is to win not simply each competitors, however to win each single recreation. It is unrealistic, clearly. But it is their actuality simply the identical.

For the model of the USWNT that may face Sweden within the spherical of 16 on Sunday (protection begins at 4 a.m., ET, with kickoff at 5 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports activities app), its followers need much more. No girls’s or males’s nationwide workforce has ever received three straight World Cup titles. This one has the chance. 

That is the colossal burden these 23 gamers all bear.

The People have appeared to stumble beneath the load of it to date. They weren’t good by way of their first three video games Down Underneath, and so they realize it. They have been criticized by supporters and former teammates alike. And as a lot as they’ve tried to stay inside their very own cocoon and preserve these harsh rebukes out, some have inevitably seeped by way of. 

That is speculated to be one of many highest factors of their careers, however on the sector, they do not look to be having enjoyable. Altering that could possibly be the important thing to any turnaround.           

“We love this recreation a lot,” U.S. co-captain Lindsey Horan instructed reporters right here a day earlier than the People will fly 4 hours east to Melbourne, Australia, the location of Sunday’s match. “We need to play higher and to search out these little items of the enjoyment within the recreation as nicely.

“I feel as soon as we get that, as soon as we get just a little bit extra of that pleasure again and that feeling, issues are going to maneuver just a little bit higher on the sector,” Horan continued. “We’re gonna have extra rhythm. We’re gonna have extra confidence, and issues will come. Increasingly more possibilities will come.”

How a lot of a problem will Sweden pose to USWNT?

How much of a challenge will Sweden pose to USWNT?

Creating scoring possibilities was solely a part of the issue within the group stage. The U.S. did not get sufficient high-quality ones. The of completion wasn’t there once they did.

It is a vexing problem with out an apparent resolution. The U.S. is FIFA’s top-ranked workforce. The backbone of the lineup has been taking part in collectively for years. However instantly, when it issues probably the most, they can not seem to make what should be easy performs — both individually or collectively.

In keeping with ahead Lynn Williams, one in every of 14 members of the roster competing at her first World Cup, they could possibly be too determined to succeed.

“All of us need to put our greatest foot ahead,” Williams mentioned. “It is lots of people’s first match, mine included, so that you simply need to go on the market and carry out so badly that generally you overlook about all the enjoyment and the rationale why you began to play.”

That is precisely the place each one in every of these gamers desires to be. Williams did not make her first World Cup journey till age 30. That is Horan’s second World Cup and at 29, at the very least yet one more might be in her future. There are not any ensures, although. Becky Sauerbrunn was speculated to captain this workforce, however the 38-year-old could not get well from a foot damage in time. There will not be one other World Cup for her.

Can the USWNT beat Sweden within the spherical of 16?

Can the USWNT beat Sweden in the round of 16?

As a lot as gamers need to carry out when the lights are brightest, attempting too exhausting is sort of all the time counterproductive. Elite athletes should respect the particular moments by residing inside them. As a result of they do not final lengthy.

“It is no secret that we really feel like we will play higher,” Williams mentioned. “Nevertheless it does not matter. Tournaments are about outcomes, and we’re getting the outcomes. So it is simply reminding ourselves [of] that, coming collectively as a workforce, having conferences, having enjoyable with one another. 

“It is loads of strain it looks like generally. However there is a human aspect to that as nicely.”

Doug McIntyre is a soccer author for FOX Sports activities. Earlier than becoming a member of FOX Sports activities in 2021, he was a employees author with ESPN and Yahoo Sports activities and he has coated United States males’s and girls’s nationwide groups at a number of FIFA World Cups. Comply with him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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