As the U.S. Women’s National Team continued its Olympic Recovery Tour with a 3-1 win over an up and coming Netherlands side, Megan Rapinoe continued with her protest, kneeling during the national anthem Sunday night in Atlanta.
Rapinoe had previously chosen not to stand during The Star Spangled Banner during matches with her NWSL club the Seattle Reign, and more controversially, prior to Thursday night’s blowout win by the U.S. WNT over Thailand in Columbus, Ohio.
U.S. Soccer responded to Rapinoe’s initial protest with a statement delivered during the Thailand match that read as a rebuke to her actions, saying in part, “Representing your country is a privilege and honor” and “we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played.”
With that statement from U.S. Soccer on the record, the question then became, would Rapinoe be fined or suspended for her actions, with the answer coming back in the negative.
As was the case versus Thailand Rapinoe began the match on the sideline and that is where her protest of racial inequities in the United States played out.
The 15,652 fans in attendance at the Georgia Dome had a chance to make their feelings known when coach Jill Ellis sent Rapinoe into the match to replace Lindsey Horan at the 64-minute mark, and the reception was certainly mixed. The boos seemed to outstrip the cheers but the dynamic U.S. winger also had her supporters.
As to the match itself, the home team found out very early that the Netherlands had come to play and that unlike in the Thailand match, the Americans were facing a worthy opponent.
It took less than two minutes for Shanice van de Sanden to make that very clear when she outran the American defense to claim a long clearance which she neatly put beyond U.S keeper Alyssa Naeher.
The goal was well taken and Naeher, a leading contender to replace Hope Solo as the U.S. number one, could not be faulted.
With the NWSL playoffs fast approaching Ellis was somewhat hamstrung as she selected her team but it was also clear that the World Cup winning manager was feeling a little experimental.
Naeher took her turn in goal after Ashlyn Harris faced Thailand but the bigger change was at right fullback where Whitney Engen received the nod over Ali Krieger, with usual first choice Kelley O’Hara unavailable.
The Netherlands opener came down the middle, so it is hard to pin the blame on Engen although the Boston Breakers defender generally plays centrally, so perhaps the more experienced Krieger or the much faster O’Hara (if available) could have snuffed out van de Sanden’s chance.
Ellis also lined up Lindsey Horan as a wide midfielder, not the ideal spot for the former PSG striker who scored 46 goals in 58 Division 1 Féminine matches. Ellis had been playing Horan in a central midfield role and seems to be searching for a way to get the talented 22-year-old onto the pitch.
The Yanks struggled for much of the first half, having difficulty with the speed of the Lionesses, a possible reason for Krieger’s 37th-minute introduction in place of Engen.
Carli Lloyd had just put the Americans on level turns moments before Ellis made that switch and Engen provided the entry pass that Tobin Heath moved on to set up Lloyd, so Ellis may have had something else in mind.
The second half was better for the Americans who took the lead in the 50th minute after pressuring Mandy van den Berg into an own goal. The Dutch stayed in the match through some fine goalkeeping from Sari van Veenendaal, who received help from the goalposts on more than one occasion.
Allie Long scored the winner finishing from Lloyd who headed on a cross from Rapinoe in the 77th minute.
Up next for the defending World Champions is a two-game friendly series next month against Switzerland. There are no other national team matches scheduled for 2016 but the Collective Bargaining Agreement does expire on December 31a s action off the field continues to dominate on-field proceedings for the U.S Women’s National Team.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 2 3
NED 1 0 1
NED – Shanice van de Sanden 2nd minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (Tobin Heath) 35
USA – Own Goal (Mandy van den Berg) 50
USA – Allie Long (Carli Lloyd) 77
USA: 18-Alyssa Naeher; 6-Whitney Engen (11-Ali Krieger, 37), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 8-Julie Johnston (21-Emily Sonnett, 46), 7-Meghan Klingenberg (16-Crystal Dunn, 64); 19-Lindsey Horan (15-Megan Rapinoe, 64), 3-Allie Long, 14-Morgan Brian (20-Samantha Mewis, 85), 17-Tobin Heath; 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.), 13-Alex Morgan (12-Christen Press, 46)
Subs: 22-Ashlyn Harris
Head Coach: Jill Ellis
NED: 1-Sari van Veenendaal; 2-Desiree van Lunteren, 3-Stefanie van der Gragt, 4-Mandy van den Berg (capt.), 20-Dominique Janssen; 6-Anouk Dekker (12-Tessel Middag, 85), 10-Danielle van de Donk, 8-Sherida Spitse; 7-Shanice van de Sanden (21-Lineth Beerensteyn, 82), 9-Vivianne Miedema, 11-Lieke Martens
Subs: 16-Angela Christ, 23-Loes Geurts, 5-Merel van Dongen, 14-Renée Slegers, 15-Kika van Es, 17-Kelly Zeeman, 18-Jackie Groenen, 22-Eshly Bakker, 26-Ellen Jansen, 29-Siri Worm
Head Coach: Arjan van der Laan
Stats Summary: USA / NED
Shots: 15 / 10
Shots on Goal: 7 / 6
Saves: 5 / 5
Corner Kicks: 4 / 1
Fouls: 6 / 15
Offside: 5 / 1
NED – Vivianne Miedema (caution) 62nd minute
NED – Dominique Janssen (caution) 90+2