When the U.S. women’s national team players headed to Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday for the last game of their victory tour, they all knew one thing: This was the last game Jill Ellis would ever be their head coach. The crowd of 33,027 fans on hand for the game against Korea Republic made sure the atmosphere was electric, fun, and non-stop!
This was a day to both celebrate and enjoy, even though the players would dearly miss their coach. The teams tied 1–1 in the friendly, as Ji So-Yn scored in the 34th minute and Carli Lloyd (above) evened the score three minutes later.
Ellis will retire with many historical accomplishments. She was the first coach to win two World Cups (2015 and ’19), holds the record for the most games coached for the USWNT (132), and is the all-time leader in wins (106-7-19).
“I think for me personally, [that she] believed in me at such a young age was really impactful for me,” defender Tierna Davidson said of playing for Ellis (below right). “I think it's a big risk betting on a 19-year-old playing in some games.”
Added goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, “Yes, obviously this was [our coach’s] last game, but this is also our last game as a group. This group of 23, not just as the 23 players, but with this staff.”
For multiple players, their childhood heroes were members of the 1999 women’s national team that won the World Cup and laid the groundwork for the two championship teams who followed in their footsteps. As the players thought about their experience in their own World Cup victories, the emotions were mixed.
As young kids, they always dreamed of one day competing at the very highest level of their sport. Now they were living it, and midfielder Rose Lavelle said her favorite moment was “the World Cup celebrations. I think during the World Cup, it was honestly really, really stressful and kind of high-pressure, high-emotion. So I think after we won and we were able to just take a breath and celebrate and fully enjoy the moment without having all the external pressure and expectations on us was really cool.”
Samantha Mewis, another midfielder, said, “Winning was really exciting. I think when I got to score against Thailand—my whole family was in the stands, and sharing that moment with them was really special for me.”
For kids like you: Keep playing! Said Megan Rapinoe (above left), “I mean, just keep enjoying it. I feel like kids’ sports at this time are serious enough, so just enjoy yourselves and have fun. Love the game, and go about it the right way, and everything will fall into place.”