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US Faces Much Tougher Opponent in Second Women's World Cup Match
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Published 10 months ago on
July 25, 2023

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Now that the United States women have won equal pay with their male counterparts, there’s no need for their supporters to again chant for fairness when the Americans play the Netherlands on Thursday in their rematch of the 2019 Women’s World Cup final.

U.S. (1-0) vs. Netherlands (1-0)

6 p.m., PT, Wednesday

Watch: Fox, Peacock, Telemundo, Universo

The Americans defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in France for their second straight World Cup trophy, and fourth overall. They were in the midst of a lawsuit and a contract battle at the time over pay with U.S. Soccer, and the players were feted with shouts of “Equal Pay!” from the fans.

The team’s pursuit for equal pay was finally resolved last year, when a deal was struck that paid the women the same as the U.S. men’s team and, importantly, evenly split the tournament prize money earned by both teams.

“Everything where we were in 2019 to where we are now is almost the same but couldn’t be more different,” Alex Morgan said. “We were fighting a legal battle off the field and trying to also win over the the world on the field.”

So the crowd at Wellington doesn’t need to fight for the Americans to receive equal treatment. They can instead focus on the rematch and cheer for another win over the Dutch.

Fresno native Lynn Williams, left, and Emily Sonnett take part in U.S. drills during a FIFA Women’s World Cup team practice at Bay City Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Sunday, July 23, 2023. (AP/Abbie Parr)

Winner Will Have Easier Path to Advance

The game is the second Group E match for both teams, and both the U.S. and the Netherlands opened the tournament with wins.

The trophy isn’t on the line for this match as it was in 2019, and both teams are already in good position to advance to the knockout round. But the game remains important for the final group standings: the winner has an easier path to advance in the next stage.

The Netherlands has won just one of its 10 matches against the United States, although only one of those matches was in a World Cup — that 2019 final. The only Dutch victory in the series came in the first meeting in 1991.

The two teams also met in the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics, with the Americans advancing on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

“Super excited for that game,” forward Megan Rapinoe said in looking ahead to the matchup. “Obviously we’ve seen them a number of times in big tournaments over the last few years. Ready for a good one.”

Sophia Smith Carried US in Win Over Vietnam

The United States is coming off a 3-0 victory over Vietnam in the team’s tournament opener in Auckland. Sophia Smith scored a pair of goals, with captain Lindsey Horan contributing the other.

U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski rolled out a somewhat surprising lineup for the first match, moving midfielder Julie Ertz to center back and starting Savannah DeMelo at midfield. She made her first start in just her second appearance with the team.

Ertz returned to the team earlier this year after the birth of her son. She had not played for the United States for more than 600 days but was able to ramp up while playing for her club team, Angel City.

While Ertz has some experience on the backline from earlier in her national team career, the recent move was prompted by the loss of captain Becky Sauerbrunn, who injured her foot and could not play in the World Cup.

“When we knew that Becky was not going to be able to make it, that’s something that we started looking into even even deeper. We had a conversation with Julie before we tried it, did a lot of work before we even got in camp in terms of video analysis on both sides. We were helping her out but also she wanted to get adjusted, committed as soon as possible,” Andonovski said.

The United States will need to shore up its attack for the Netherlands, which beat Portugal 1-0 in its tournament opener. Stefanie van der Gragt scored in the 13th minute.

“I think if there’s one thing we need to do better besides finishing the opportunities, it is just how can we help the players that are in the position to finish those opportunities and give them a little better service,” Andonovski said.

At least there’s not the drama of the past impacting the team’s preparation.

“Any time you take your focus off of playing, off of what’s in front of you and what your job is, of course that’s taking your focus away from what you need to be doing, that’s distractions that are unnecessary,” Morgan said. “So not having distractions like that, like having to fight for equal pay, equal working conditions moving forward at all, ever again, it feels really good.

“And I hope that will soon be the case for all of the players around the world on the international level.”

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