By Mary Cunningham
Okay, the Eagles don’t start training camp until August 2.
What is happening in the Phillies’ executive suite is much more compelling than what is happening on the field.
The NBA and NHL drafts are history and the Sixers and Flyers seasons are still a shout away.
Unless you are dying for the British Open and Tour de France, there isn’t much in the way of much-watch sports TV.
Right now, the moment belongs to the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team with Tuesday’s Women’s World Cup semifinal in Canada between the U.S. and Germany.
Despite reaching the semis, it’s been a grind for the U.S. women in this Cup. There’s a highly scrutinized coach (Jill Ellis) trying to meld a team with beloved veterans (Abby Wambach!) and ascendant young stars (Julie Johnston!) and the results have been successful if not overwhelming. If you were the worrying type, you might be worried that the USWNT has been sluggish at times and struggling to dominate and perhaps too attached to its older approach and style and now good grief here comes world No. 1 Germany.
Still, it’s the W’s that matter. The U.S. didn’t drop a game in the group stage (so far they’ve won four and tied Sweden 0-0). To date they’ve only allowed a single goal.
Versus China last Friday night, the USWNT played its most compelling 90 minutes. They attacked throughout the game, controlled the flow and Carli Lloyd’s goal early in the second half provided all the necessary margin. After some lineup tinkering (Wambach started on the bench, and Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday were forced to sit after accruing two yellow cards in the tournament), the win was a confident boost after a couple of weeks of nonstop stylistic second-guessing.
“I think that we’re going to be flying next game,” Lloyd said afterward.
Sixteen years after Brandi Chastain in the Rose Bowl, the USWNT is an irrefutable part of the sports establishment. Players like Wambach and Alex Morgan are bona fide athletic celebrities in this country. Nike took grief during the 2011 World Cup for not making USWNT jerseys for male consumers; they hooked the dudes up this time around (smart business, though I’m still perplexed by the jersey’s neon green highlights). When a male sportswriter carped on Twitter that women’s sports weren’t “worth watching,” the rebuke was abundant and swift and generally hilarious. (A reunited Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers had a brilliant last word about the matteron NBC’s “Late Night.”)
Sure: There is something larger to be said about what this all represents, how the USWNT has become an engrossing national story, capable of producing superstars and loyal audiences in the millions and indelible moments in U.S. sports history. There are generations of athletes coming up who have been inspired by the achievements of this team and its predecessors. That momentum is real and important and true and can’t even be undone by the clown show of FIFA.
But the real proof is in the feeling. It’s undeniable. There’s excitement, anxiety, nerves, all of that very good stuff. A massive soccer game is coming on Tuesday and this week—this moment—belongs to the United States women.