The University of Alabama football team has long been seen as one of the most dominant sports teams. Last season, Alabama defeated its regular-season opponents by a combined score of 588-165.
Enter the United States women’s national soccer team, which began play in the Women’s World Cup on Tuesday in France. The United States had 39 attempts on goal in the game, compared with Thailand’s two. The Americans possessed the ball for 75 percent of the match, completing 663 passes, compared with Thailand’s 209.
The win was the most lopsided one in World Cup history. Many began to wonder if the Americans should have toned it down and stopped their scoring spree. Others questioned the team’s sportsmanship, arguing that the United States should have muted its celebrations once it became clear it was going to win easily.
Jill Ellis, the team’s coach, addressed the criticisms after the game.
“As a coach, I don’t find it my job to harness my players and rein them in, because this is what they’ve dreamed about, and this is a world championship,” Ellis said. “When you have a deluge of goals like that, it’s important. It’s a good feeling. It’s a boost of confidence.”
‘Boss up or get out of the way’
Thirteen goals could be seen as excessive, or it could be seen as a sign of dominance.
Bobby Boswell, who retired from playing in Major League Soccer, jumped into the debate and defended the United States team, implying that he would have done the same thing if given the opportunity.
And, of course, the concept of equal pay was brought up by many, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Despite their dominance, the United States women are paid far less than their counterparts on the men’s team. Twenty-eight players filed a gender discrimination suit in March for “institutionalized gender discrimination” that they say has led to unequal pay, training facilities, medical treatments, travel and coaching. In 2015, the women’s team earned $2 million for winning the World Cup. In 2014, the men earned $9 million despite not advancing past the round of 16.
When is it too much?
Some of the strongest criticism came from a panel on the Canadian television station TSN.
“This was disgraceful for the United States,” said Clare Rustad, who made 45 appearances for the Canadian national team. “I would have hoped that they had celebrated with humility and grace, but celebrating Goal 8, 9, 10 the way they were doing was really unnecessary.”
The debate got so intense that Kaylyn Kyle, also a member of the panel, tweeted that she had received death threats.
Julie Foudy, a former United States player and current ESPN reporter, offered similar sentiments.
“The thing that I didn’t love is that at 13 goals they are dancing on the sidelines and celebrating that much,” Foudy said. “It’s like temper down, settle down a little bit, you’re at 13.”
Goal differential matters
The other important factor in the group stage is the goal differential, which was quickly pointed out to many on Twitter arguing against the scoring. The top two teams in each group advance, and goal differential could be a deciding factor in who advances and whom they may face.
Abby Wambach, who played in four World Cups for the United States, was one of the most vocal advocates for running up the score.
Billie Jean King, who has long been a voice for gender equality in sports, also tweeted out her support for the United States.
‘Our little girl scored’
For many, the argument started and ended with one sentiment: It’s the World Cup. Four members of the United States delegation made their World Cup debut, and all four of them got on the scoreboard during the rout.
“I think it’s disrespectful if we don’t show up and give our best and play our game for 90 minutes,” Alex Morgan, who was targeted for celebrating all five of her goals, said to ESPN. “It’s disrespectful to the Thai team. I believe they wanted us to play them straight up. For the celebrations, these are goals that we have dreamed of our entire lives.”
Regardless of the debate, the United States showed that it is in top form and ready to contend for another title.
The United States will play Chile, which lost to Sweden, 2-0, in its World Cup Opener, on Sunday in its second game of group play. Chile is playing in its first World Cup and is ranked 39th by FIFA.