Something had to change for the U.S. women’s national team.
They went into halftime of their World Cup group-stage game against the Netherlands on Thursday down just one goal, but it felt like a disastrous end to the first 45 minutes. The Americans started strong, with a chance from Savannah DeMelo in the box drifting just wide of the net.
After that, the energy shifted.
A breakdown in the midfield in the 16th minute led to wide open space for the Netherlands to work with. After multiple attempts to clear the ball, the U.S. couldn’t withstand the pressure and Jill Roord netted the game’s first goal.
NETHERLANDS STRIKES FIRST 🇳🇱Jill Roord fires it into the bottom corner of the net! pic.twitter.com/E3eWRb3GmL— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 27, 2023
NETHERLANDS STRIKES FIRST 🇳🇱Jill Roord fires it into the bottom corner of the net! pic.twitter.com/E3eWRb3GmL
It was the only shot the Netherland’s had on target all game, but it stung. Suddenly, the U.S. looked passive, and for the rest of the half, the Dutch remained in control.
So when they went into the locker room at halftime, the USWNT knew they’d have to emerge as a different team.
Sophia Smith switched her hair from a braid to a bun. Vlatko Andonovski subbed DeMelo out in favor of Rose Lavelle. And from the halftime commentary box, USWNT legend Carli Lloyd called for more effort.
She got it in the second half, along with fire, anger and a “don’t mess with me” goal from Lindsey Horan that changed the energy on the field and saved the U.S. a point in a 1-1 draw.
The captain told Goal.com before the World Cup that she expected chatter from Lyon teammate and Dutch midfielder Danielle van de Donk.
“You get trash talk every single day from Dan van de Donk,” Horan said in the interview. “And once we play them, you’ll see it. She’ll be coming for my ankles like every single play, so watch out for that. That will be fun.”
But when it happened on Thursday in New Zealand, “fun” wasn’t the word that came to mind. After a physical, penalty-riddled first half, Van de Donk challenged Horan near the goal, and the U.S. midfielder took issue with the contact. The two exchanged words, and eventually, one of the referees brought them together to try to make nice.
Horan wasn’t having it. And as teammate Trinity Rodman brushed synthetic grass off Horan’s forehead — stuck there after her fall — Horan continued to talk with animated displeasure.
“I don’t think you ever want to get me mad, because I don’t react in a good way,” Horan told reporters after the game. “Usually I just go and I want something more. I want to win more. I want to score more. I want to do more for my team.
“So that moment, that little tackle — big tackle — changed a shift in my head because I want to do everything for my team and to win these games.”
Her reaction, aided by a pep talk from U.S. veteran Julie Ertz, was exactly what her team needed. It was also the best form of revenge in sports.
A U.S. corner kick snaked into the box and Horan charged forward, heading the ball past Dutch keeper Daphne van Domselaar.
LINDSEY HORAN SENDS THE ULTIMATE MESSAGE 🇺🇸THE @USWNT HAS LEVELED IT 🤫 pic.twitter.com/IV7hnG4CyK— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 27, 2023
LINDSEY HORAN SENDS THE ULTIMATE MESSAGE 🇺🇸THE @USWNT HAS LEVELED IT 🤫 pic.twitter.com/IV7hnG4CyK
Horan proudly grabbed the top of her jersey and pulled the United States logo into view as she celebrated the game-tying goal. It was everything the USWNT needed in that moment.
“She wanted it so bad, and you could tell,” Rodman told FOX Sports after the game. “There was the trash talk, and then she scored. She was amped, and that energy spread to the entire team.”
“It’s a really good example of the leader that she (is),” Andonovski said, praising the way Horan’s response rubbed off on her younger teammates.
“She gets fouled, kicked, hurt, and obviously it’s a very difficult moment. And instead of crying about it, she just goes and makes a statement and basically shows everyone the direction that the game is going to take.”
From there, the U.S. regained control of the match. They recorded 18 shots to five from the Netherlands, failing to put another in the back of the net despite multiple chances, including an Alex Morgan goal called back for offsides. With the draw, the USWNT received a much-needed point that keeps them at the top of Group E and all but ensures they make it out of the group stage.
They have Horan to thank for that.
Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.