Gateway news reporter Karen Miller was in attendance at the Women’s World Cup Final between the United States and Japan on Sunday. The United States won, 5-2. The U.S. jumped out to a stunning 4-0 lead within the first 16 minutes, with Carli Lloyd netting the fastest-ever hat trick in a World Cup game (men’s or women’s).
Miller jumped at the chance to give a first-person account of her experience at the World Cup in Vancouver:
Something like 20 million people watched the Women’s World Cup Final against Japan on television and I was not one of them. I was one of a little more than 53,000 people in BC Place at the game. I feel a huge disconnect from the public experience of the game, all I can say from a fan perspective is I am still in disbelief.
Everything about it happening live felt surreal. When Lloyd struck early, I was shell-shocked, and by the time she rounded off her first-half hat trick with a shot from the 50-yard line all I could think was “am I dreaming?”
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I wasn’t the only one; my whole section seemed stunned. Every American in that stadium came prepared for a nail biter. We didn’t know what to do with a 5-2 dominating win.
It’s cliche, possibly, to say something felt like a dream, but the World Cup final really had that feeling. Toward the end, smoke from faraway wildfires started to seep through the opening in the BC Place roof, floating over the whole scene like a cloud. Everything for the rest of the weekend in Vancouver took on this sepia-toned haze.
I bought my ticket in January. Back then, I had no idea if the United States would make it to the final. History showed me that it was hit-or-miss, and even if the team did make it I had no idea if they’d win. Every game since January, I watched and analyzed intently, constantly calculating the odds that I would see them win.
In those calculations, I didn’t factor Lloyd lacing up her boots on Sunday and strolling on out for a hat trick.
I was in Canada for the whole day after, showing around some friends from out of town. I went to school in Vancouver, so I planned on playing tour guide. Instead, the three of us sat down for lunch and met three people from Florida also in town for the game.
In one of the more surreal moments, we connected, exchanged numbers, piled into my car and spent the afternoon back at BC Place staring at the “Congrats, USA” sign outside and asking maintenance workers if we could take home the signage.
When I finally got home from the Women’s World Cup, it was the wee hours of Tuesday morning. I opened the back of my car and quietly hauled the massive “FIFA Official Merchandise Tent” signboard into my house. It had seemed like a totally normal souvenir at the time.
Farther away from Vancouver and closer to home and real life it feels like a hazy smoke of the real world started to seep in like it had at BC Place.
I went about finding a way to watch the game on television. Partially to see it again and partially to double check that it really did happen.
LOCAL PLAYERS IMPRESSED
Gig Harbor High School senior Mia Ostergren can relate to Carli Lloyd’s ridiculous goal from midfield. While playing a game for her club team, Harbor Premiere, Ostergren launched from similar distance.
“I didn’t think it was going in but it did,” she said. “The sun was mostly in the keeper’s eyes. I just took a chance; you never know.”
But Ostegren hesitated to compare much else of her game to Lloyd, who posted a legendary performance at the World Cup.
“She’s an amazing player,” Ostergren said. “I envy her so much, her touch and speed is incredible. She had a big impact on the World Cup this year. It was amazing.”
Ostergren, who plays both center midfield for the Gig Harbor Tides, said she was a bit in shock as well after seeing the improbable four-goal barrage to start the game.
“I was going crazy,” Ostergren said. “I didn’t even know what to think. Our style of play made us really strong. Having our players with the best tactical and speed made us even stronger.”
Many were inspired by the women’s performance in the World Cup. Count Ostergren among them.
“I think we’re bringing more and more young girls into soccer, which is pretty incredible,” she said. “A lot of people love the sport. It makes me try more and more every day, to be a better player on and off the field.”
Ostergren will have the opportunity to play for former United States Women’s National Team member Stephanie Cox in the fall. Cox was recently named the coach of the Gig Harbor High School girls soccer team.
“I’m very excited,” Ostergren said. “I heard she was coaching and I was going crazy about that.”
Sports editor Jon Manley contributed to this story.