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The Student News Site of Granite Bay High School

Granite Bay Today

The Student News Site of Granite Bay High School

Granite Bay Today

“The player of the match was that post:” Inside the media’s critique of the USWNT, political and technical remarks alike

The USWNT’s performance at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup caught the attention of many soccer fans; some simply thought the team was not achieving predetermined standards, while others examined the junction between sports and politics.
In+this+photo+illustration%2C+USWNT+forward+Alex+Morgan+%28%2313%29+prepares+to+kick+a+penalty+kick+in+an+intense+game+during+the+2023+FIFA+Womens+World+Cup.+
Courtesy of Sienna Rodriguez
In this photo illustration, USWNT forward Alex Morgan (#13) prepares to kick a penalty kick in an intense game during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The quadrennial FIFA Women’s World Cup was hosted in Australia and New Zealand in late summer of 2023. Although Spain took home the winning title, much attention was directed towards the United States Women’s National Soccer Team’s (USWNT) performance. 

The USWNT were aiming for their “three-peat” in winning this year’s World Cup, having two consecutive wins in 2019 and 2015. The team boasts four World Cup championship titles and are considered the most dominant women’s soccer team history has ever seen. Coming into this tournament, the team was highly favored to win.

However, their performance at this year’s World Cup didn’t satisfy many fans’ expectations. Earlier in the tournament, in the group stage, two of their three matches ended in a draw. In addition, many felt the USWNT missed many opportune shots. In fact, their performance at the World Cup ended at the loss in the Round of 16, the earliest round that they’ve exited the tournament, when they lost in penalty kicks against Sweden (5-4). 

“I thought it was disappointing how early USWNT got knocked out,” Mindy Tran, a junior and soccer player, said. 

Many critics and fans expressed similar sentiments. However, the team was subject to backlash from political opponents. The media quickly evolved the unexpected performance to a political jab. 

Megan Rapinoe, a forward for the USWNT, is known for her social activism for ensuring equity and is a prominent proponent for LGBTQ+ rights and a passionate advocator for BLM. Despite her advocacy, many opponents of her political viewpoints have claimed that her interest in social activism deters her from contributing to the success of her team. 

Moreover, in the latest installment of the controversy between athletes and the national anthem, the actions of many players on the USWNT as the national anthem played caught the attention of many watchers. 

“I think it’s … a personal thing,” Anna Jenkins, a senior part of GBHS varsity women’s soccer team, said. “I would have put my hand over my heart…We don’t know the backstory behind each certain person…It’s not that I see it as disrespectful (of not putting their hands over their heart). There’s not much I can say about it because I don’t know (their backstory).”

Jenkins has expressed that the media has utilized this situation to target USWNT. To Jenkins, the criticism is less technical remarks of their play at the game but rather a political statement. Specifically, after the team ended in a draw (0-0) with Portugal during the group stage, the players were seen celebrating as it marked their advancement to the Round of 16. Former USWNT teammate Carli Lloyd strongly criticized the narrow advancement unworthy of celebration, admonishing them to improve once in the next round. Lloyd even called “the player of the match was that post,” referring to Portugal’s missed shot that was deflected off a post. 

I don’t think they deserve the backlash. Not every team can win EVERY time. That is not fair to ask of a team.”

— Avery Wu

“I do think that the media is definitely hard to … get the facts straight, … whether that’s accurate or not, whether because we don’t see behind the scenes, we don’t see what they were talking about in the room before.” Jenkins said, “Everyone else assumes that … they’re gonna win; they’ve won World Cups in the past. But I definitely also think that just watching that one clip we don’t know the backstory. We don’t know what they said in the training room before that … it could have been super disappointing for them and … were trying to get their hopes up for the next World Cup.” 

Rather than focusing on the players’ performance, many fans believe focusing on the technical aspects would be more beneficial. 

“The USWNT struggled to deliver in times of pressure. Players like Rapinoe failed to convert crucial penalties,” Avery Wu, a senior part of GBHS varsity soccer team, said. “On top of that the coach was horrible and was not utilizing his players on the bench.” 

The USWNT overcame many changes this year, including a new coach, unexpected injuries and an intermix of returning and new players. 

“There’s also the age gap where … it’s time to bring the younger players up … I think that they have a lot of opportunity and willingness to be the best that they could … only downside of that is that they haven’t had experience but once again, (that) just comes with time,” Jenkins said. 

Despite any factors, whether they be politicized comments or critical analysis, all of the attention is due to the standards placed on the USWNT. 

“I don’t think they deserve the backlash. Not every team can win EVERY time. That is not fair to ask of a team,” Wu said. 

Wu believes that the role politics played in this World Cup was too overwhelming, and there should be a fine line between sports and politics. 

“Too much (politics) can cause polarization and controversy within the team,” Wu said. 

After all, many believe that sports should be fostered in a positive environment, detached from any political enclosement.  

“Soccer should be spread through positive reinforcement which can motivate other players to join the game and have some fun,” Tran said.

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About the Contributor
Sophie Nguyen, Editor
Sophie is a junior and Opinions Editor. This is her third year on the Gazette staff.

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