Throughout the 2019 Women's World Cup, starting from the first whistle of the opener against Thailand until the last whistle in the final, the USWNT was out in full force with its celebrations. Every one of the 13 goals in the first game were celebrated and every goal after that as well. This drew some scrutiny from pundits and fans around the world.
So, the question is: Was the USWNT doing too much with its celebrations and attitude throughout the World Cup?
Don’t be so sure. This could be biased, but I think most would agree that the level of celebrations was justified from the women’s side.
It’s hard to find a great coach that will tell you to ease up when you get up big. In fact, a lot of coaches will teach you the opposite. When you’re up big, keep going. Be gracious about it, but don't just go through the motions. If you stop playing, you are essentially mocking the players by exerting no effort in front of a crowd likely filled with friends and family. It is often portrayed as rubbing it in if you keep piling onto the lead, but it goes both ways. By continuing to take the opposition seriously, you are showing them a sign of respect, as they might fight their way back into a match if you lose focus and give in after a big lead.
The USWNT team came under scrutiny after it beat Thailand 13-0 in the World Cup opener and celebrated every goal accordingly. The players celebrated every goal as if it would be their last. Many stated it was unsportsmanlike or unfair, but are they forgetting this is a World Cup? This isn’t an intramural team playing for fun to get away from classes or a Sunday league match; this is the world’s biggest stage. This is a chance to shine for your country, and for the USWNT, the USA. What were they supposed to do? Just pass the ball around and make Thailand chase them for the second half? Anyways, who doesn’t love a good celebration, especially one that pokes a bit of fun at the opponent?
Maybe Alex Morgan just wanted to signal she needed some water to hydrate. Celebrations are ingrained in this game, unless of course players are trying to respect a former team, in which case most refrain. But why should one team take pity on another? Everybody in this competition is a grown up and disappointment is part of the game.
Even Phil Neville, head coach of England, called out American “arrogance” when the USWNT team was scoping out the hotel that it would stay at if it won the semifinal match against his side. To counter those claims, U.S. coach Jill Ellis said, “That’s planning and preparation for our staff. So I think that’s pretty normal.”
From a stylistic perspective, you can look at each game and say the way the U.S. played was hardly a sign of arrogance. The first game, there was just too big of a gap between the two sides to mask the so-called arrogance. The remaining games, the U.S. often jumped out into an early lead and then proceeded to manage the score from there, maybe giving up a goal, but never letting it slip from their grasp. They rarely controlled possession, weren’t playing overly flashy with flicks and tricks; they just got the job done and completed their objective.
Looking at three consecutive 2-1 scores would be hard to relate to any arrogance by the winning side. Caution would be the more appropriate word. All of this and the fact that this was the World Cup should quell those remaining voices saying the USWNT was being disrespectful in the way they went about its business throughout the tournament. The USWNT was playing at an incredibly high level throughout the tournament, so let the players enjoy it and celebrate how they please!