U.S. women are jubilant, but not surprised, after World Cup win

When the final whistle sounded, Carli Lloyd dropped to her knees, felled by a combination of exhaustion and euphoria.

Abby Wambach draped an American flag over her shoulders and smiled.

Excitable defender Meghan Klingenberg ran circles in the middle of the field, then grabbed teammate Becky Sauerbrunn and an American flag and they circled the field with the banner flag between them.

Hope Solo just smiled.

The U.S. team's surprisingly easy 5-2 rout of Japan in Sunday's Women's World Cup final inspired a number of reactions. Surprise, however, was not among them.

"We just knew," Coach Jill Ellis said. "As the pressure gets bigger, this team gets better. Because that's what they're about."

By the time the U.S. victory celebration hit full stride, there were more American flags on the artificial turf than there were in the stands at B.C. Place.

And there were a lot of American flags in the stands, where the crowd was partying like it was 1999 — the last time the U.S. women won a World Cup title.

"They were the pioneers," Lloyd said of the '99 team. "Now it's our turn to keep the tradition going."

In a workout two months ago, Lloyd said, she imagined the game unfolding almost exactly as it did — a premonition she kept mostly to herself until Sunday.

"It was just my headphones and I at the field. And I'm running and I'm doing sprints and it's hard. And I just completely zoned out. I visualized playing in World Cup final and visualized scoring four goals," said Lloyd, who ended up scoring three.

"It sounds pretty funny. But that's what it's all about."

Youth is served

Midfielder Morgan Brian, the U.S. team's youngest player, was in first grade in 1999. But after winning a World Cup of her own at 22, she's not taking anything for granted.

"This is great, first time around you win a World Cup," she said, fingering the gold medal that still hung from her neck more than an hour after the game. "And obviously it's such a good thing going forward. Because you want to do that again, again and again."

Brian may be almost as responsible as Lloyd for the U.S. win. After being shuffled on and off the field during group play, Brian was inserted into the lineup in a new role — as a holding midfielder — three games ago, freeing Lloyd to join the attack.

Lloyd responded with five goals in those three games, and Brian was being credited for turning the tournament around for the U.S..

"Yeah. Maybe," she said with a grin Sunday. "I never said that. I think I helped."

Added Lloyd: "An unbelievable team performance. We all held together and we all stayed the course.

"What Jill did and the coaching staff did, from start to finish, earned us this World Cup."

Age is served

Abby Wambach played in her final World Cup game Sunday, and defender Ali Krieger said she was determined her teammate wouldn't leave empty-handed.

"Before the game I just went and hugged her and I said 'I just want to win this for you. Not only for myself and for my teammates but for you. Because you deserve it,'" Krieger said.


Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times