Lindsey Horan is really, really good
It's strange: Lindsey Horan isn't the first person you think of when the U.S. Women's National Team comes to mind. Or the second. Or the third.
That may be about to change, though, after Horan scored that vital, epic goal in the third minute of play during a 2-0 win over Sweden that made a big impact on the standings and the psychology of this World Cup.
This is what Horan does, right? Coming in quietly, taking what's hers, leaving an opponent gasping in her wake.
So why don't we look to her with the same kind of anticipation as a Carli Lloyd, an Alex Morgan, a Mallory Pugh?
Well, there's the chronological space each of those players occupies in our collective experience. Lloyd is the veteran, the leader who we've been counting on since last decade. Alex Morgan was the chosen one, the goal-scorer with the signature hairband. As for Mallory Pugh, we're forever on the hunt for who's next. Pugh is, clearly, next.
Horan is none of those things, and yet she's all of those things. Horan has been making senior team appearances since 2013, but Thursday was her first signature moment in a major tournament. She's 25, too old to be the new thing, too young to have the kind of veteran gravitational pull of a Megan Rapinoe, whose very appearance makes us feel both the import of a current moment and the nostalgia of all she's done before now.
But of course, that wasn't true of Rapinoe before she buried a goal in the 2011 World Cup and ran to the sideline to sing “Born in the U.S.A.” into a live mic. We may, in fact, be seeing the Lindsey Horan moment. It would make sense — she was the NWSL MVP in 2018, and it wasn't particularly close, which is saying something in a year when Australian dynamo Sam Kerr also played in the NWSL.
And to score a goal early against Sweden — well, every word in that phrase matters. Sweden is a boa constrictor of an opponent, slowly choking off the American attack, as it did most recently in the 2016 Olympics. To get that rush of oxygen, right away, matters against Sweden more than any other team in the world.
Horan, let's not forget, was Pugh before Pugh, turning pro early, then heading overseas. She's a prototype for the kind of endlessly flexible player Jill Ellis looks for. A decade from now, we're going to think of Lindsey Horan very differently, and Thursday is one of the latest reasons why, but it's more than just that one goal. This is years in the making.
The goal also bookended the comments made by the team after this one was over, a 2-0 win where Sweden didn't seriously challenge and the U.S. missed going up 3-0 by a handful of shots they missed by inches. They're not afraid of anyone, and didn't give a thought to trying to lose to get a more favorable road to the final (see schedule below). Avoiding France until later? Getting on the side of the bracket with Cinderellas like Italy? Not a consideration. Or as Rose Lavelle put it:
The Americans aren't scared. Nor is there any evidence they should be. Next up is Spain, who maybe should be.
As for the rest of the tournament:
Sam Kerr is also ridiculous
The four-goal explosion by Sam Kerr against Jamaica to secure Australia's bid to join the final 16 teams at the World Cup wasn't even that surprising, if you've ever watched Sam Kerr play. But it was vintage Kerr, from a header in the 11th minute to make it clear Australia would hold the advantage throughout the match, right through her relentless fourth goal, in which Kerr turned up her speed to track an ill-advised backpass and navigate right around the Jamaican goalkeeper.
It wasn't a seamless lead-up to the tournament for Australia, with a late coaching change, and they struggled mightily to get out of their group, with too many defensive lapses. But as long as Sam Kerr is on the field, Australia is a threat to win it all.
Todos somos Argentina
What a crazy roller coaster it was to be Argentina – or anyone watching them. In 16 minutes, they managed to erase a 3-0 Scotland lead, earn a point, and keep their World Cup hopes alive.
And then, just as suddenly, they were knocked out of the tournament by this amazing one-on-one goal by Cameroon's Ajara Nchout.
The reason we all love the World Cup so much extends beyond our favorite teams. If you can watch all of that and not feel deeply, well, I don't want to know you.
We're on to the Round of 16. Here's where to catch every game:
Saturday, June 22
Germany vs. Nigeria, 11:30 a.m. ET FS1
Norway vs. Australia, 3:00 p.m. ET Fox
Sunday, June 23
England vs. Cameroon, 11:30 a.m. ET FS1
France vs. Brazil, 3:00 p.m. ET Fox
Monday, June 24
Spain vs. United States, Noon ET FS1
Sweden vs. Canada, 3:00 p.m. ET FS1
Tuesday, June 25
Italy vs. China, Noon ET FS1
Netherlands vs Japan, 3:00 p.m. ET FS1
Will this be the Summer of Lindsay? (It certainly has a better ring to it than Summer of Sam.) Catch all the action and more from FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™.