The United States Women’s National Team broke a lot of European hearts on its way to a second-straight World Cup championship, but the players also opened a lot of eyes in their home country.
A fair share of those eyes belong to Ashtabula County residents.
Taylor Wilms, a 2018 Geneva graduate who now plays soccer at Elmira College in New York, is one of them.
“This team not only has amazing skill, but also has a way of drawing in and exciting females everywhere,” Wilms said. “Little girls want to be like them and I strive to hold myself to the standard that they do. It really has put a good name out for women’s soccer everywhere and motivates others to really get involved.”
The USWNT kicked off its run with a 13-0 dismantling of Thailand and ended group play with two more shutout victories — 3-0 vs. Chile and 2-0 against Sweden.
The Americans then collected three-consecutive 2-1 wins over Spain, the host nation of France and England to clinch a spot in the championship against the Netherlands.
“As a girl soccer player, I am thrilled to see women being so successful,” Claire Eaton, who plays soccer at Conneaut, said a few days prior to Sunday’s title game. “People are buzzing all over the world about our success in the games and they are representing our country tremendously.”
In the title game, the U.S. failed to score in the first half for the first time all tournament, but not for a lack of trying, according to Addie McCoy, a rising senior defender for Edgewood.
“I was thinking that the Netherlands goalie is insane, because we could have had at least five goals probably by half,” McCoy said.
The U.S. finally caught a break roughly 15 minutes into the second half in the form of a penalty kick. Megan Rapinoe, who earned the Golden Boot and Golden Ball after the tournament, buried the shot in the 61st minute.
“I was really happy, because I know usually when we have penalty kicks it’s either a goal — like we get a goal off of penalty kicks unless we really screw up, so I was really anticipating a goal and was really happy it happened,” McCoy said.
Rose Lavelle, a Cincinnati native, doubled the lead eight minutes later.
“As soon as the goal was scored, I jumped up and started yelling,” Wilms said. “It was so exciting and made me happy. I felt like I was part of the game.”
The influence the team has on the country moving forward remains to be seen. Sometimes the excitement fades prior to meaningful changes being made.
According to an article published by The Guardian prior to the quarterfinal round, the USWNT players could earn a maximum of $260,869 if they won the World Cup. Meanwhile, had the men made last year's World Cup and won, each player would have earned more than $1.1 million.
For reaching the quarterfinals, the USWNT players earned $90,000 in bonuses. Each member of the men’s team would have received $550,000.
But, if the ”equal pay” chants that rained down from the crowd after the World Cup concluded is any indication, the players have been heard.
“The USA women, this is like their second World Cup in a row,” McCoy said. “The men, they didn't even make it into the World Cup last time and they just got second in the (CONCACAF) Gold Cup, so I definitely think these women are really powerful and really inspirational and they should definitely be getting the same pay as the men’s team.”