SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Since beating the Netherlands ten days ago to win a second straight World Cup, it has been a non-stop celebration for the U.S. Women’s Soccer team.
Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn and Christen Press return to the Utah Royals Wednesday, still riding high from their historic tournament run.
“I think my favorite part was immediately following the game in the locker room, celebrating with everybody,” Sauerbrunn said. “It was so much fun, dancing and lots of champagne.”
“It’s such an intense environment for such a long time,” added O’Hara. “It was nice to finally exhale and actually be able to celebrate and know there were no more games on the other side.”
Sauerbrunn and O’Hara were fixtures in the starting lineup for Team USA throughout the World Cup. Press, who did not attend the news conference because she was not feeling well, was not. But she scored a key goal in the semifinals against England.
“Regardless of who’s starting, it’s 23 players that win us a World Cup,” O’Hara said. “Christen was a great example of that. She did a great job coming in the semifinal and scoring a goal.”
A lot has been said about this group. Were they the best team ever? Were they too arrogant, too political? Regardless, this team had very high expectations, and they fulfilled them.
“It’s a strength of the team that we don’t really care,” O’Hara said. “We don’t really allow that to come into the bubble and affect us. As much as people say, oh it’s the World Cup, it’s it’s a dream to play at the World Cup, it’s not super fun all the time. It’s a grind. There’s a lot of pressure and expectation.”
“I also think it’s unfair to miscontrue self-belief with arrogance,” Sauerbrunn added.
This team also brought the equal pay issue to the forefront of the national conversation, and they’re not going to stop talking about it.
“I think it’s hugely important for us to be able to lend our voice to it and to be a representation of that fight,” Sauerbrunn said. “I think it’s something that we willingly take on.”
Now the question, can the National Women’s Soccer League capitalize on the success of the World Cup team? Almost the entire World Cup team competes in the league, and the Royals sure hope the interest continues to grow.
“I think we already saw a bump in attendance even from last week’s games and the American players hadn’t even showed up yet,” Sauerbrunn said. “So, what I hope and what I anticipate is that attendance will be up, and hopefully we can carry that momentum throughout the rest of the season. So, I think the support has been great, but I hope to see even more of it.”
Sauerbrunn, O’Hara and Press will all be honored before the Royals game against Portland Friday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. However, it is unclear if any of the players will return to action.