In the wake of the U.S. women’s national team’s shootout loss to Sweden in the World Cup Round of 16, critics jumped to celebrate the defeat, including disgraced former President Donald Trump, who has been indicted four times since leaving office.

Trump particularly delighted in Megan Rapinoe’s missed penalty kick on his Truth Social platform, which is ranked among the least downloaded social media apps. For Rapinoe, Trump’s glee provided just another example of a trend she has seen forming for some time.

“Everybody on the right—and everybody who was using hateful language and these tropes—it’s like they have just been waiting since, I don’t know, 2016? 2019?,” Rapinoe said in an interview with The Atlantic. “They’ve been waiting for this team to stumble. But when we are perfect, then we are accused of thinking that we’re perfect.”

Fox Sports commentator Alexi Lalas also chimed in after the USWNT’s loss.

“Politics, causes, stances, & behavior have made this team unlikeable to a portion of America,” Lalas wrote on X. “This team has built its brand and has derived its power from being the best/winning. If that goes away they risk becoming irrelevant.”

Rapinoe said a “huge backlash” against women is happening in the country.

“I think we see that with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We’re seeing that with the trans argument in sports,” Rapinoe said. “Does Alexi know exactly what he’s saying? If I was saying stuff that anchors on Fox News are also saying … I would be worried about the cosign.”

The 38-year-old forward is set to retire at the end of the 2023 NWSL season. Yet while her final World Cup did not end the way she would have wanted, she’s proud of the legacy she’s leaving behind.

“We’ve understood for a long time that being one of the best teams, and being one of the teams that [has] been invested in the most—[although] not enough—it is our responsibility to continue to push the game forward,” she said. “And I take a lot of pride in the World Cup being what it is today versus even four years or eight years ago.”

The U.S. women’s national team should consider its 2023 World Cup run “an unmitigated failure,” Fox Sports analyst Alexi Lalas said after Sunday’s elimination match against Sweden.

The two-time defending World Cup champions entered the 2023 tournament in search of a historic third consecutive title. But they fell well short, exiting the tournament in the Round of 16 for the worst finish in team history. No previous U.S. team had finished lower than third place at a World Cup.

The 5-4 loss to Sweden on penalties came after the USWNT dominated most of the match. The teams played to a scoreless draw through regulation and extra time, but the USWNT maintained a 58% advantage in possession, a 22-9 advantage in shots and a staggering 11-1 advantage in shots on target.

“The play of this game, while deservedly praised, it doesn’t cover up deficiencies. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t going to be an examination of this team… From a historic perspective, this has never happened,” Lalas said. “And so ultimately 2023 has been an unmitigated failure for this U.S. team.”

The USWNT brought a much different lineup to the 2023 tournament from its 2015 and 2019 title runs, with 14 players making their World Cup debuts. While several stars from the previous tournaments returned, many of them — including Alex Morgan, Julie Ertz, Megan Rapinoe, Kelley O’Hara — were playing radically different roles for the team, either in terms of strategy (Morgan, Ertz) or minutes (Rapinoe, O’Hara).

“If you look at the past two World Cup-winning teams, this was the weakest U.S. team of the three,” Lalas said. “And so is this a surprise that they are going out? Not necessarily.”

Yet the USWNT did itself no favors with a poor showing in the group stage, as Lalas noted. After a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands and a 0-0 draw with Portugal, the U.S. finished second to the Dutch squad in Group E, setting up the Round of 16 clash with powerhouse Sweden. The Netherlands, meanwhile, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 win against South Africa.

The USWNT looked more comfortable against Sweden than in any of its three group-stage matches, helped by a midfield-heavy 4-2-3-1 formation. Yet the strong play against Sweden could be considered an indictment of the team’s overall plan for the tournament.

“Why did it take three games for this team to finally show up at this World Cup?” Lalas asked.

Lalas and his fellow Fox Sports analyst Carli Lloyd received backlash for their criticism of the USWNT in the aftermath of the final group-stage match, which included questions about players’ mentalities and their focus. After the elimination match, both analysts largely kept their critiques to the team’s on-field performance — at least on the postgame show.

In particular, Lalas, who played for the U.S. men’s national team from 1991-98, called for a tough look at head coach Vlatko Andonovski and his players as the USWNT makes its plans for the 2024 Olympics and beyond.

“A credit to them and a credit to Vlatko for, at least in this moment, doing the things needed to fix it and come out with a much, much better performance,” Lalas said. “But in totality, this was not good enough for this team. And ultimately, when it comes down to it, they were just not good enough to go and win that historic third in a row.”

Midge Purce called out Fox Sports analyst Alexi Lalas for questioning the motivation of the U.S. women’s national team and “trivializing women’s sports” in the process.

Both Lalas and Carli Lloyd had a lot to say about the team’s performance on the Fox Sports broadcast following the USWNT’s scoreless draw with Portugal. Lloyd called the USWNT’s performance “lackluster” and “uninspiring,” noting a shift in the team culture she has observed over the last several years.

“Carli, when you were talking earlier about, the winning doesn’t matter as much anymore, I want to make sure I understand what you were saying. Because if that’s the case right now — not just with this team but with this federation right now — where it’s not first and foremost about winning on the field, then that’s a massive, massive problem,” Lalas added.

Many observers — from fans to media members to former USWNT players — have taken exception the commentary, including former U.S. defender Ali Krieger and injured U.S. forward Purce.

“I was baffled by the comments,” Purce said on Just Women’s Sports’ World Cup show “The 91st.”

“I’m all for critiquing the players’ performances, their tactical awareness, their positioning,” Purce continued. “But to diminish their commitment and their discipline, their character, that’s absolutely ludicrous to me.”

Lalas questioned the USWNT’s priorities, which to Purce’s “The 91st” co-host Katie Nolan seemed like an invitation from Lalas to further criticize the team’s players.

“So is it about appearances, is it about fame, is it about money, is it about all the other things that have come to this team for, now, a number of years, and that getting in the way of what has given them, ultimately, the platform?” he asked Lloyd, who responded by talking about the “fine line” between confidence and arrogance.

“The way he asked it sure felt like he was hoping for a yes,” Nolan said. “To do that in regard to a team who has very publicly fought for equal pay, for whom money has been an issue in the sense that they have not been given the money they deserve… To say that money goes to the heads of these players and has somehow diminished their on-field performance, to me, is apology-worthy, almost.”

Purce agreed with Nolan’s reading of Lalas’ question.

“When I heard it, (my) jaw dropped,” Purce said. “What he’s saying is, not only is he just trivializing women’s sports — because you’re saying that this is not an industry, it’s not a business where money is a priority, where exposure and investment are priorities — you’re saying, ‘Oh, we can’t compromise this sanctity of the women’s game. You must play purely for the love of the game. You must play for your heart. You must play because you just have this burning desire inside you to win. Let’s not muddy all of this with money.’

“It’s ridiculous. It suggests that as we advance in investment and exposure, our performance is compromised. That we are not capable of being a big business and also performing is a horrible thing to say. I cannot fathom, if (NFL quarterback) Jalen Hurts had a bad year this year after he signed his $255 million dollar contract, I can’t fathom anyone saying,  ‘It’s the money, it’s the money that got to him.’”

The bottom line, Purce concluded, is to have respect for USWNT players in discussions of their World Cup performance.

“It’s not difficult to have enough respect for the players — even if you know them or if you don’t know them — to not question their heart, their motives, their will to win or their efforts,” she continued. “I mean, that’s not hard. And we can collectively, as a community, do a better job.”