Locals Embrace World Cup Team, Including 2 South Jersey Players
As the U.S. women's soccer team prepares for the final match, fans stateside cheer on the squad, which includes Delran's Carli Lloyd.
It’s a scene that played out across the country over the past week.
Fans of soccer—not just women’s soccer—found their ways to televisions. They tuned in not just to watch the U.S. women’s World Cup team compete in Germany, but to watch quality games throughout the tournament.
Maybe a little more surprising has been the uptick in attention paid by novices, from fans and non-fans of the game, which has bolstered television ratings to an all-time high. And that doesn’t include hits on the Internet as offices have discovered something known as ESPN3.
“I think it’s not only great for the game but for patriotism,” said Moorestown girls’ head soccer coach Bill Mulvihill, who has more than just an interest in the games since he has coached against both Delran’s Carli Lloyd and Basking Ridge’s Heather O’Reilly, both on U.S. World Cup team.
Joining them are other players from New Jersey: Jill Loyden of Vineland, Tobin Heath of Basking Ridge and Christie Rampone of Point Pleasant.
When the U.S. team’s Abby Wambach scored against Brazil with a header in the waning minutes of overtime in the quarterfinals, “I wasn’t the only one jumping around my living room,” Mulvihill said. “I think anyone that was watching the game was doing the same thing.
“I think if you really pay attention, soccer is getting more and more attention now both in the men’s game and the women’s game. More people are playing and more people are watching. In 1999, when Brandi Chastain scored to win the World Cup and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, that was a peak in interest. But the game has grown since then and now we’re achieving another level of interest.”
On Sunday, the U.S. Women’s soccer team will look to win a record third World Cup as they take on Japan in Frankfurt, Germany. The Americans came in as one of the favorites but that hasn’t translated into an easy road to the final. Yet, in many ways, that’s what has captured the nation’s and the world’s interest.
In fact, Japan has been an even better story with their unexpected run to the final coming after a tsunami devastated the island nation this past March. The Japanese have used an effective tactical style, but on possession to reach the final with wins over Mexico, New Zealand, host and one of the pre-tournament favorites Germany (winners of the two previous tournaments) and, most recently, over Sweden.
The Americans, meanwhile, have followed the lead of Wambach, who scored two memorable headers in the last two games. The U.S. will have to find a way to counter the speed the Japanese possess and that may open the door for Lloyd and veteran Shannon Boxx in the middle of the field.
“The way they tied the game against Brazil, that ranks up one of the best moments in sports and I’ve been a sports junkie since I was 5. I have said that Abby Wambach is the most intense athlete I’ve ever watched,” former West Deptford girls’ coach John Cobb said. “She is the most intense athlete that team has seen since Michelle Akers. The top of the top have a focus that nothing gets in their way.
“You don’t win with one player. The goalie (Hope Solo) is the best player keeper in the world. So you have all the cards in place for another title.”
The only thing left is to find a good spot to watch the game.
Sunday’s women’s World Cup final, USA vs. Japan, kicks off at 2:45 p.m. on ESPN. You can also watch online at ESPN3.com.