Klingenberg: 2015 team pioneering in its own way

Harjeet Johal July 9, 2015 38
Getty Images

Getty Images

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The incredible journey that the U.S. went on to win the Women’s World Cup ended with an offensive masterclass in a 5-2 win over Japan, but it was the defense that got the Americans to the final.

Carli Lloyd was brilliant and had a match that only legends have. Her hat trick was only the second in a World Cup Final match, men’s or women’s and first among women.

The defense that carried the United States to the finals also deserves a lot of credit. Coming into the tournament, the U.S. back line had a few question marks. Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn and Meghan Klingenberg answered any and all concerns by shutting down the opposition time after time. That group of four, sitting in front of goalkeeper Hope Solo, gave up only one goal heading into Sunday’s final, tying the record for a shutout streak at a single Women’s World Cup at 540 minutes (Germany 2007 being the other team, which at the time was the full tournament).

[KASSOUF: Lloyd plays hero in Women’s World Cup win  |  Motivated by email]

Klingenberg knew that the main objective was to win the World Cup. In doing so, the Americans would have to play at a level they had not previously performed at. Coming into the final, both Japan and the U.S. had played fantastic soccer, but neither side had peaked and shown their true top-level capabilities.

“That was the level that we’ve always had in us,” Klingenberg told The Equalizer the morning after the United States’ victory. “That’s the expectation that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the tournament. It’s great that we realized our level, because we knew that we could be that good. Playing against a world-class opponent like Japan, and being able to put in a good performance like that, it feels so great, because we just knew that we had that in us but we hadn’t shown it yet. It’s great that it came out in the finals.”

As World Cup champions, the 23 players representing the U.S. experienced a life-changing moment at BC Place on Sunday. Everywhere they go, they will be recognized and remembered as World Cup champions. They returned to a celebration at L.A. Live on Tuesday and on Friday the team will get a ticker-tape parade in New York City. The 26-year-old Klingenberg is still on cloud nine after becoming a champion.

“It hasn’t sunk in, it’s just an incredible mix of emotions that I can’t necessarily pin down,” she said. “You have this awe of being in a World Cup, and winning, and then a childhood dream becoming a reality, and all your family being here. There’s been ups and downs, so really, it’s been a great ride so far.”

[MORE: Wambach gets her title  |  Will she retire? Questions loom for USWNT]

Many — fair or not — have compared the United States’ 1999 World Cup championship team to this World Cup winning team. Clearly both teams are different in their own ways, and both came together to win a World Cup in North America. In 1999, the media coverage, fan support, player conditions and coaching were different from today. This was the first World Cup expanded to 24 teams in the growing landscape of women’s soccer.

Klingenberg was 10 years old living in Pittsburgh during that magical run and U.S. penalty-kick victory over China. She may have been inspired to become a footballer because of the 1999 World Cup. A future young girl may have watched the U.S. at this World Cup and been inspired as well. In that regard there are similarities with national pride and growing the sport. In terms of players, and the actually performances on the pitch. Klingenberg doesn’t see a real comparison.

“If you compare 99′ to 2015, there’s really no comparison for how much ’99 moved the women’s game into the forefront of America’s mind,” Klingenberg said. “That’s not really what we were doing. We just wanted to win because we wanted to be the best in the world. Any time that you can say you’re the best in the world, it probably moves the game forward in your country. That was our goal and hopefully the repercussions and impact will kind of follow.”

The U.S. also won the inaugural World Cup in 1991. The former North Carolina Tar Heels player hopes that there is no comparison between the two most recent championship teams going forward.

“I hope not. There’s no comparisons,” Klingenberg said. “The 99′ team was world-class in themselves and we have a world-class team too. There’s really no comparison, they were pioneers of the game. I feel like we’re still pioneering the game. To me it’s just an honor having a star with them.”

Klingenberg and her teammates will eventually get back to playing in the National Women’s Soccer League this month. At this point, it’s unknown which players will play in this weekend’s matches, but it looks unlikely. The Houston Dash — home to Lloyd and Klingenberg — will host the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday. With the lower bowl of BBVA Compass Stadium sold out, the Dash have opened part of the upper bowl. Klingenberg is happy to just keep riding the wave and playing soccer when she eventually does join back up with Houston.

“I’m just going to keep playing, doing my thing,” she said. “I’m not sure yet, we’ll see. I think we need a little bit of down time and then we’re going to head back to our teams and everybody can catch us in the NWSL.”

  • FootballNowAndAlways

    One week is enough down time. The players on the team whose positions are not set in stone would do well to break from the rest and rejoin their teams pronto. Chalupny, Press and Boxx are well advised to rejoin the Red Stars for Sunday’s match. They might no longer be part of the NT going forward. Might as well delve right into playing on a team where their positions are much more assured.

    • AlexH

      I’m sure that Kling’s spot is secure but I don’t think it should be. Both FB had breakdowns in the tournament that was cleaned up by very good CB play. In a fair world Dunn / KO or some other aspirant should have an opportunity to compete for the spot.

      • EbaJ

        All positions should be up for grabs. If you think our CB players didn’t make a large number of mistakes you are wrong.

        • brdn08

          Waits to hear the large numbers of mistakes made by Sauerbrunn. I can only really think of two.

      • guest

        this is a perfect example of how little posters on this board know about soccer, and the lack of objectivity comes into play when it comes to players, the back line was stellar throughout the entire tournament, including kling, her save against sweden was instrumental towards the path the US took throughout the entire tournament- defense almost set a fifa record for most consecutive minutes without a goal, are you ever happy? nope didn’t think so- did you also not notice that the outside backs were left on an island at times- because the midfield didn’t drop back into their defensive support, of course every player on this team makes mistakes, but to single out the outside backs is ridiculous, did you see the CB mistake against germany, could have changed the complexion of the game, should have been a red card, lucky it was just a yellow, and had sasic made the PK certainly could have changed the outcome of the game, you obviously have a difficult time being objective when it comes to players, like many posters on this board, how naive are you to think that KO and dunn didn’t have the opportunity to compete for that spot or other positions every single day in training, the coaching staff is constantly evaluating players its a very fluid process, ellis was quoted as saying dunn was tried at several positions throughout the process, being cut could be the best thing for her career in the log run, she will get her opportunity, but to criticize the outside backs is utter bs, just like these boards, these players make mistakes on the field and in life just like all of you on this board, try to be a little more objective in your comments instead of being a fan of one player or the other,

        • Guest

          I may not agree with the sentiment that the outside backs did not defend well, maybe they could have been better at times or Krieger could have done more going forward against Sweden. On the other hand I do not agree with you analysis of the midfield. After the first two games they did do a very good job of tracking back. For all of the praise our back line has received our midfield’s defense has been largely overlooked. The average shot distanced in the Germany game would not have looked nearly as good had the Midfield not defended very well. Finally we all have different opinions and can present them with out insulting others.

          • guest

            not insulting anyone, just stating my opinion, and if you read my post, i said outside backs were left on an island sometimes, not taking away from the midfield at all, its the reason why the team played better as a whole, didn’t play that way in the group stages or prior to the world cup, midfield had to play better defensively for us to be successful, backline for once deserves the credit, everyone was critical of them going into the tournament, but a lot of the blame should have been from the lack of defensive support from the midfield, gave players way to much space, can’t do that playing in a 442 formation, the change in formation certainly was tactically a very good decision across the board, can you all just be happy that we WON the world cup with all 23 players

          • Guest

            Their defensive formation did not change much from what I saw it was 4 on top of 4 the whole tournament. I guess there is an argument to be made that Carli cam back and helped a lot more than a forward typically would in a 442. The flank mids were responsible for providing help when needed and also keeping track of the full backs. Unless our opponents have special flank players that are beating our FBs over and over I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect them to be able to handle 1v1’s. I don’t think there were many time after the first game where our full backs were outnumbered down the flank. After the 4th goal in the final Tobin and Pinoe definitely took their foot off the gas with regards to high pressure but pressed high and ran a ton the entire game against Germany.

          • Steglitz49

            Which Guest is whose guest? I guess I cant tell. Don’t ask; don’t tell?

  • Movement

    The 2015 team is the first USWNT to actually “win” an official “World Cup Final”.
    In 1991, that tournament was not actually called the “World Cup”.
    Instead it was called the M&M Championships, or something like that.
    In 1999, the USWNT actually scored an official “draw”, not an official win vs. China.

    So this is the first time, in an actual “World Cup Final”, that the US actually “won”, without having to rely on a penalty shootout. They also didn’t score a goal vs. China.

    • Movement

      End result: This is the greatest achievement ever for the USWNT.

      5 goals in a World Cup Final, while beating Japan like a red-headed child.
      The beating of almighty Germany in the semifinal, in shutting them out.
      Shutting up everyone that called the USWNT out (including Australia’s federation, Pia, Colombia for claiming the USWNT doesn’t have heart, and Silvia Neid for saying the American team is full of noise, which well, WE ARE).

      • Ethan

        Abby Wambach ended up being a sub, and Carli Lloyd’s play skyrocketed after her penalty against Colombia and after being moved into a more natural attacking role. You might not like what Pia said, but she wasn’t entirely inaccurate.

      • memyselfandi

        They surpassed my expectations, tho I still kinda expected them to win in the end. Definitely expected Kling to struggle, no DM allowing elite teams in knockout rounds to run through the mid, Abby ball, etc. However, the changes to the team that many had been calling for were finally implemented and they played so much better. As Michelle Akers said when asked by Fox about her criticisms of tactics/player selection, it comes with the territory. Ellis and the team are pros and can take some criticism. We fans who were critical knew they can play better than how they were playing, and are happy that they won (convincingly!) by playing a different style. I’ll eat my crow but with some sugar on top.

    • FootballNowAndAlways

      Call me a loser, but I still like the 99ers more than the 15ers. Maybe I am just a 20th century kind of guy.

      • Timber Dave

        Okay, since you asked for it: Loser!

        🙂

        I like them both, in different ways.

        • Steglitz49

          I think s/he means that the ’99ers did not have the path smoothed for them and that they were also pioneers.

          The ’99 WC may well still be the best attended — at least when adjusted for the number of matches — and probably the most profitable. Like WC-11, it was a watershed and summit for WoSo, which WC-15 is not.

          • JN West

            The 99 is still the best attended World Cup because of the TOTAL number of people in attendance. Over 90,000 in the final alone. You don’t need to adjust it for matches. Why is WC-11 a watershed moment while the WC -15 is not? For what reason? Record number of viewership in 2015 is not a watershed moment to you? You’ve been trolling the Equalizer and U.S. fans for years now. You’re seriously butt hurt the U.S. won it again. That’s all. And I love it.

          • Steglitz49

            Thank you for confirming my hypothesis about WC-99.

            If you do not understand why WC-11 was a watershed, I can’t help you. Any explanation would be like pouring music into the ears of a deaf person.

            WC-15 may well be remembered for FIFA winning the turf-war. What else is there to remember?

    • Steglitz49

      Semantics.

      Japan won the world cup last time. They did score two goals, if that makes you less sad.

  • mockmook

    I wonder if the reluctance of NT players to mention the NWSL (and the slow return) means there is some friction or resentment with these players and the NWSL.

    • FootballNowAndAlways

      I am beginning to wonder if their contracts do not prevent them from promoting any entities other than the NT period. I mean, it is really foolhardy of them to snub the NWSL because their tenures on the NT are anything but assured. 5 of them are guaranteed to be omitted from the Olympic roster. And the inevitable pruning and replenishment which standout performances in the NWSL like Dunn’s and Huerta’s necessitate, will see to it that another 2 or 3 receive pink slips before next summer.

      I mean, Saurbrunn wasn’t even a starter until the fall of 2013. Engen was a starter until this year or so. Christen Press was featuring prominently in every match until she was left off the team’s last two matches.

      If these women are not committing to promoting a league that could represent their future stable earnings vehicle, they are tragically shortsighted.

      • mockmook

        I don’t think that can be it — the league is essentially a branch of the USSF — that makes the lack of cross-promotion all the more puzzling.

      • Lorehead

        If the interviews aren’t live, maybe the broadcasters think, “Oh, that’s just a plug,” and cut it.

    • memyselfandi

      Good interview with Press, just ignore the fake audience applause. She is the first player that I’ve seen so far to mention the league and its popularity after this win. https://youtu.be/f_Ccs_UT1lw

      • Lance Scallop

        Press!

      • Guest

        I don’t know how anyone can not like Christen Press. Great interview.

        • smallchief

          I dearly love Christen Press. However, I don’t think she has been much good over the last few months, a characteristic she shares with all our other forwards.

          Press seems to me to be too restrained in her manner to gain a dominant role on the U.S. team. She needs to yell at the other players on the field, “Give me the damned ball, you idiot! I can score!”

          That’s my psycho-babble advice to Press. Get tougher — although I might like her less if she does.

      • Daniel Strick

        “Those are the most impressive players in our league.” Not the first she has expressed empathy and admiration for the unchosen 90% of the NWSL, who play for little more than love of the game.

        Couldn’t resist this:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HH85zttgbGg

      • Great interview. Thanks for sharing. The hosts were more knowledgable than most. Made it interesting.

        • memyselfandi

          The interviewers definitely prepared well. They actually asked questions about the league versus other player interviews I’ve seen so far where they only asked about the WC so credit goes to them. We’ll see what other players say in the coming days/weeks/months if asked. Obviously we hope and probably expect that the whole team feels the same way that Press does about the NWSL.

  • Steglitz49

    What a great photo! i have a soft spot for Klings. Don’t know why. Maybe that injury in the Champions League final that robbed her team of the victory?

  • Tom F

    Kling did a great defensive job vs Laudehr and of course Kawasumi, who got taken out in the first half by the frustrated J coach. She also saved a goal from going in vs Sweden.
    Overall Ellis finally came through by keeping for the most part the geysers on the bench. Still felt bad that Press, Leroux & A;Rod were bench warmers too during the final two games

    • Steglitz49

      I intepret it that JE kept those 3 on the bench because they are history. She did not want them to get any more exposure. (They have a chance to fall on their swords, obviously.)

      • Terry Lash

        I doubt that either Press or Leroux will be dropped, but Rodriguez is probable to leave the WNT in my view. Hopefully, Wambach will resign in the fall. If Ellis wants to have 4 forwards, then I would place my bets on Dunn, who can also play other positions well, and Huerta.

        • Steglitz49

          As you know, I want the US to blaze a trail by taking only such as born in 1993 and later to Rio together with 3 players aged >35 for stability. Thus, I interpreted these JE’s actions as starting the slashing and burning.

          • JN West

            Stop pretending you actually care about the U.S. Its a joke. You are just moving the goal post if and when the U.S. wins another Olympic Gold Medal. You can say something stupid like the U.S. didn’t actually blaze a trial because they didn’t meet your ridiculous criteria.

          • Steglitz49

            As you ken well, without the US there would be no WoSo.

            The US got WoSo into the Olympics. The US rescued WC-03, an absolute milestone for the women’s game.

            The US has won all the OG golds except the Sydney Olympics which luckily for WoSo was won by the Norwegians. Else the IOC would be justified in throwing WoSo out of the Olympics.

            The US can live without WoSo but WoSo must have the US. FIFA recognized that even if the US did not.

  • smallchief

    I was totally underwhelmed when Klingenberg was first called up to the U.S. team. Why? Why? Why? With players like O’Hara and Dunn riding the bench why did we need Kling? She wasn’t even any good while she was playing with Houston in the NWSL.

    She made a believer out of me after a few appearances with the National Team. Grit and class on the field — and a mean volley too.