(L-R) Crystal Dunn, Rose Lavelle, Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan celebrate after the women's quarterfinal against the Netherlands at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 30, 2021 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.
For most national soccer teams, an Olympic bronze medal and a 17-2-5 record would be considered a highly successful year. That’s not necessarily the case for the U.S. women.
Then again, not many teams carry such weighty expectations.
With the USWNT now having wrapped up play for the season with a win and a draw in Australia this past week, here’s a look back at the eventful year that was 2021 and what might be coming in 2022.
Changes In The Pro Game
Changes were afoot in the pro game, both at home and abroad. The past season began with a parade of high-profile U.S. stars announcing moves to European teams, at least for part of the year. Most of the overseas movement involved the Women’s Super League in England. Among the biggest winners for the U.S. were midfielder Sam Mewis and forward Tobin Heath. Mewis, playing for Manchester City, was named to the WSL’s Team of the Year, while Manchester United’s Heath was the November player of the month.
Back at home, the NWSL is looking to regroup after a series of high-profile abuse allegations that resulted in five male coaches being either fired or forced to resign. There is reason for optimism. In November, rising star Trinity Rodman led the Washington Spirit to its first league championship, while the arrival of two high-profile expansion teams in Angel City FC (Los Angeles) and San Diego Wave FC will grow the league’s footprint next season.
Meanwhile, several top players will be on new teams in 2022, with Mewis being traded to the Kansas City Current and Julie Ertz to Angel City, where she’ll be joined by fellow U.S. teammate Christen Press. Defender Abby Dahlkemper, a World Cup and Olympic veteran, highlights San Diego’s roster.
Bittersweet Olympic Bronze
No team has won the Women’s World Cup and then claimed the subsequent Olympic gold medal. Even with an extra year to prepare due to the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the U.S. women continued that trend.
Fielding an older squad that largely resembled the World Cup-winning team from 2019 — the USWNT’s average age was around 30, and the forward line was 33 — the Americans struggled to find their rhythm in the empty stadiums. That began with a 3-0 drubbing in the opener against longtime nemesis Sweden. A big win over New Zealand and scoreless draw against Australia was enough to send the U.S. on, but the USWNT needed a shootout to oust the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, then fell 1-0 to eventual champions Canada in the semis.