Three former Cardinal helped propel the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) past Group F in the 2019 Women’s World Cup this week. After building momentum in last month’s Send-Off Series, which included a clash with South Africa in Levi’s Stadium, the USWNT easily disposed of its Group F rivals. Kelley O’Hara ’09, Christen Press ’10 and Tierna Davidson ’20 each started at least one match as the Americans defeated Thailand, Chile and Sweden.
It was the first time since 2003 and the fourth time overall that the Americans managed to win all three group stage matches. The USWNT tally of 18 goals set a new record for most group stage goals ever by any team.
The storyline coming out of the 13-0 victory over Thailand was not that the Americans had set a tournament record for goals, or that the team scored more World Cup goals in one game than the U.S. Men’s National Team since June 18, 2002 (despite much lower pay). Instead, stealing the spotlight were claims that the goal-scoring and celebrations were excessive.
“You don’t want to take your foot off the pedal because you want to respect the game and play through and play them as we would play anyone else,” O’Hara said. “At the end of the day, you can’t feel bad for scoring as many goals as possible.”
The Americans’ first goal of the World Cup was delivered in the twelfth minute courtesy of an O’Hara assist. Advancing into the box with the comfort of the striker she was on the Farm, O’Hara found the head of Alex Morgan, who scored the first of her record-tying five goals in the match.
“There was a lot of emotion associated with stepping on the field and being able to be here,” O’Hara said.
Press also benefited from Morgan’s scorching performance, finding the forward for her hat-trick goal in the 74th minute.
With seven changes to the lineup, including starts for both Press and Davidson, the USWNT took on Chile, and came away with a 3-0 win. Given that the Americans put out their second team and still dominated, defender Ali Krieger said, “We have the best team in the world, and the second-best team in the world.”
The youngest starter for the USWNT since 1995, Davidson allowed herself to be taken over by the moment in the ten second before the game started. “I was looking around, and the stadium was packed, and there were a couple of chants kind of echoing throughout, and I was kind of like, ‘Oh, wow,’” Davidson said. “But then after that, I was like, ‘game time.’”
Davidson took full advantage of the opportunity and recorded two assists, both on corner kicks. Swinging balls in with her left foot, Davidson found both Julie Ertz and Carli Lloyd.
“I mean, those balls she played in — she’s got one of the sweetest left foots I’ve ever seen,” said USWNT head coach Jill Ellis.
Davidson had not taken a corner kick since September, but was nonetheless prepared to find her targets in Lloyd and Ertz.
“Big credit to them, because we have such fantastic aerial presence and they really commit to what they do,” Davidson said. “So me putting it just outside the goalkeeper’s range was all I really had to do for them to score.”
Press appeared in all three games, entering as a substitute against both Thailand and Sweden. Playing the full 90 minutes against Chile, Press was denied by goalkeeper Christiane Endler, who saved all three of Press’ shots on goal and notched six saves total, earning Player of the Match. Endler is the teammate of Stanford alumna Alana Cook ‘19 on Paris Saint-Germain in Division 1 Féminine.
In the group round finale, the USWNT avenged its loss in the 2016 Olympics with a convincing 2-0 triumph over Sweden. Lindsey Horan netted a goal in the third minute, and the Americans never looked back.
For Davidson, who grew up in Menlo Park and attended Stanford games as a child, playing with Press and O’Hara means playing with the same athletes she used to ask for autographs.
“I can’t say at that point I [expected this],” Davidson said. “It really is a special experience to play with the players I used to look up to.”
The USWNT will suit up against Spain in Stade Auguste-Delaune, Reims, France next Tuesday, with kickoff set for 9 a.m. PT. America won 1-0 when the two teams met in January, and the lone goal came off the boot of Press.
Tuesday’s match could be similarly close. While taping her podcast “Laughter Permitted” on campus two months ago, Julie Foudy ’93 recalled being particularly impressed with Spain when she called the January game for ESPN.
“The Spanish team was so good,” Foudy said. “With a little bit of success, they qualified for their first World Cup in 2015 — the country now is changing because they’re immersed in [soccer] all the time.”
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.