Thailand's players were in tears at the full-time whistle after suffering the heaviest defeat in World Cup history at the hands of the US.
There were those on social media who criticized the defending champions for celebrating each goal, but Alex Morgan -- who became only the second American to score five in a World Cup match -- told reporters that "every goal counts."
Morgan, who comforted Thailand player Miranda Nild after the match, said it was important for the team to "continue to go" and score as many as they could in case goal difference would ever prove to be a factor in the group stages.
"We knew that every goal could matter in this group stage game and when it comes to celebrations this was a really good team performance and I think it was important for us to celebrate together," said the striker.The Americans' performance incurred some derisive virtue signaling from their neighbors to the north:
Alex Morgan, who bagged five goals in the mauling, was seen counting her goals on her fingers as she rattled them in.
Megan Rapinoe, playing her 154th game for USWNT and scoring her 45th goal, sprinted to the sidelines and indulged in a pre-planned celebration set piece as she scored the USA's ninth against the Thai part-timers.
Wilder celebrations followed — but so did accusations across the globe of classlessness, lack of sportsmanship and disrespect, most notably from USA's northern rivals, ex-Canadian national team stars Clare Rustad and Kaylyn Kyle.
"This was disgraceful for the United States," Rustad said. "I would have hoped they could have won with humility and grace, but celebrating goals eight, nine, 10 like they were doing was really unnecessary."
Kyle added: "I'm all about passion, but as a Canadian we would just never ever think of doing something like that.
"For me it's disrespectful, it's disgraceful. Hats off to Thailand for holding their head high on their first time on a World Cup stage."The overwrought condescension coming from Rustad and Kyle aside (hey, maybe you should place better than fourth in the Women's World Cup before criticizing, eh?), the American ladies' celebration after each goal was nevertheless a source of controversy, and even former US star Hope Solo expressed discomfort with the nature of the celebrations:
It was tough for me to watch some of the US goal celebrations – which have come under criticism – considering the scoreline. You do want the game to be celebrated and you do want to see players having fun but at the same time I thought some of the celebrations were a little overboard. A few seemed planned out and I do know some players spend a lot of time thinking about celebrations for the fans. It’s not always necessary.To be fair to Solo, she was critiquing the celebrating but defending the score itself; "[w]hen you respect your opponent you don’t all of a sudden sit back and try not to score," she wrote. ESPN's Graham Hays, for his part, wasn't buying any of the criticism, whether related to the score or the celebrating:
But to put blame on the United States ignores two obvious points. First, the Americans didn't make the rules under which the number of goals scored is part of deciding the outcome of the tournament. Goal differential counts. The U.S. women want to win its group. Unlike just about any other sport, the Americans have a vested interest in running up the score.
And second, it isn't the United States' fault it can't clear its bench. It is allowed three subs. It used three subs.
"If this is 10-0 in a men's World Cup, are we getting the same questions?" U.S. coach Jill Ellis asked after receiving repeated queries about the score. "I think a World Cup, it is about competing, it is about peaking, it is about priming your players ready for the next game."
But beyond that, why is it the obligation of the U.S. team to act in the interest of creating a picture of a falsely level playing field? Why shouldn't FIFA or the Asian Confederation get blamed for not doing more to promote the women's game in places where it lags behind?
Are we really going to blame players for celebrating a goal, in many cases in their first World Cup, instead of looking at the underlying reasons for the disparity in the first place?This is a key point: at the international level, there isn't nearly as much parity for women's soccer as there is for the men's game. The Thai women have an interesting story, but the bottom line is that the nation of Thailand, like much of the world as a whole, fails to invest in, and develop, the women's game. Couple that with a Women's World Cup that only recently expanded from 16 teams to 24, thereby increasing the overall disparity of the teams participating, and results such as yesterday's shouldn't be especially surprising.
Therefore, I'm not particularly receptive to criticisms about the score itself. When you're playing in the World Cup, and you have an opportunity to score a goal... Well, you score a goal. Not only do the rules regarding goal differential essentially require it, but, in soccer, scoring opportunities are hard to come by and if you are to reach your full potential as a soccer player then you need to take advantage of those situations. Especially at the World Cup stage. Yesterday seven US players scored; for four of them, it was their first-ever goal at the World Cup. That's invaluable experience, and it creates confidence moving forward in the tournament. Furthermore, as somebody who has groused about the lack of offense in soccer in the past, I really can't get too upset about the rare instance wherein a team scores "too many" goals.
I'm a bit more sympathetic to criticisms regarding the way the women celebrated after each goal, if only because such behavior is generally frowned upon in sports as a whole. For example, in American Football there is no penalty for running up the score, but excessive celebration after a touchdown merits a 15-yard penalty (and, in the NFL, sometimes a fine). Did the USWNT need to celebrate their eleventh, twelfth or thirteenth goal against Thailand with as much enthusiasm as their first or second? Maybe not. Maybe a quick group high-five or half-raised fist pump would have been sufficient after goal eight or nine. But where do you draw that line? At what point is a team "required" to contain its excitement, especially at the World Cup stage?
Yahoo's Dan Wetzel argues that America's ladies have nothing to apologize for:
Finally, there were complaints the U.S. players shouldn’t have celebrated their goals because scoring was so easy.
Except, scoring a goal in the World Cup is never easy.
It might not have been difficult against Thailand in the second half, but that was just a single moment of the play. Just getting here required years and even decades of sacrifice and work from each and every American player (and their families, coaches and teammates through the years).
To score in the World Cup is an accomplishment any serious player dreams about. For Pugh, Lavelle, Horan and Mewis, these were their first-ever World Cup goals. To say they shouldn’t celebrate the accomplishment or suggest it holds less value due to the opponent is to dismiss all the blood, sweat and tears it took to get here.
Yes, the game was a massacre, but that’s what happens sometimes in sports. These American women aren’t here to go easy on anyone. They aren't here to consider hurt feelings. That would be insulting to everyone involved.
They are here to win and they’ll inspire a generation of girls around the globe by playing exactly how they did on Tuesday: full-throttle, unapologetic and with both power and creativity.
They played the beautiful game, beautifully. It was something to behold, not condemn.Next up for the US Women is Chile on Sunday.