Carli Lloyd became a superstar over night with her hat trick in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final to lead the United States over Japan, 5-2.
The 2015 World Cup Final became the place where women’s sports were as mainstream as the NBA Finals, and current high school soccer players had someone other than just Alex Morgan to be an idol.
The United States women played an exciting brand of soccer, especially in the blowout wins against Germany and Japan in the World Cup Semifinals and Final.
Honestly, it’s the same style found on the high school girls soccer teams in Southern Utah. The last three Girls 3A State Soccer champions were from Southern Utah — Snow Canyon in 2012, Dixie in 2013 and Cedar in 2014.
“The U.S. winning the World Cup means so much,” said Makenna Clark, midfiedler for the state champions, Cedar Lady Reds. “It boosts soccer all over the world, and I know it will especially in our region. It shows that anything is possible and if you work hard enough, you can achieve it.”
Whether it was Lloyd scoring a goal from 54 yards away to complete the hat trick, or Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn standing as a brick wall between every opposing offensive player and Hope Solo, the 2015 U.S. Women’s National Team had a plethora of stars to enjoy watching.
Asking local high school players who was their favorite player on this year’s team, they all gave different answers — a definite sign that this team was one for the ages.
“I liked watching Julie Johnston in this World Cup,” said Justine Allen, a senior from Desert Hills High School. “I’m a defender and so is she, and I think she’s really underrated.”
While Allen loved the suffocating back line for the U.S. Women’s team, Hannah Morby loved all those goals scored in the Final against Japan.
“I love Alex Morgan, her dedication and hard work,” said Morby, a junior from Desert Hills High School. “Carli Lloyd surprised me. I didn’t know much about her, but now I’m excited to follow her career.”
For an area of soccer champions, the dreams are even bigger now.
“If you dream big, you can accomplish the unthinkable,” Allen said. “Alex Morgan, Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd all started in the same place we did, and now they’re the best in the world. The best part of winning is seeing how you got there.”
The U.S. team recognized the potential Utah has to be a soccer hot spot. USA played against Mexico at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy last September as part of the World Cup tune-up games. And it wasn’t even a game the U.S. considered to be a throw-away, either, as Lloyd, Morgan, Solo, Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg, Lauren Holiday and Abby Wambach all played.
“I think it’s a good thing for local soccer players because it shows that soccer is becoming a lot more popular and bigger,” said Abby Guymon, a senior from Desert Hills High School. “It sets the bar higher and teaches us to keep trying to reach our goals. You can succeed at anything, if you want it.”
The local girls soccer players said most of all they learned about team work from the U.S. women.
“It’s all about believing in yourself and your teammates,” Clark said. “It’s all about teamwork and working for your teammates, and I think that can boost any team.”
The game itself was just flat out amazing — the way Lloyd put the ball in the net over and over and over again. Throw in goals by Holiday and Tobin Heath, and it was great television. The numbers don’t lie, either. Overnight television ratings show that the Women’s World Cup Final topped last year’s World Series Game 7 between the Royals and Giants.
“It was super fun to watch,” Morby said. “Hopefully more people will want to come out and support our local high school games.”
They might as well because chances are good that the state champion will be from Southern Utah when the calendar turns to Autumn.
Follow Richard Briggs on Twitter, @BriggsRich. Call him at 435-674-6233.