USWNT captain Lindsey Horan got mad. Look what happened next.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — About a half-hour after the U.S. and Dutch women’s national soccer teams completed their heated World Cup match Thursday, Lindsey Horan and Danielle van de Donk found themselves 20 feet apart explaining to reporters the incident that changed the course of the game.

The Dutch had been two-thirds of the way to an upset over the two-time reigning champions when van de Donk smashed into Horan near the sideline.

Most of the year, they are teammates on the great French club Olympique Lyonnais. Here, on a wind-whipped winter day along Wellington Harbor, with first place in Group E on the line, they were adversaries.

While receiving treatment, Horan fumed.

“Unfortunately, I did not take it in a good way,” Horan said with a grin. “I got a little heated, and she got to hear it.”

Julie Ertz and others tried to calm her down.

“Lins, please, just don’t get another yellow card,” Ertz said. Horan had received a card in the opener last weekend, and if she were to lose her cool and get another yellow, she would miss the group finale.

“Just score this goal,” Ertz said, “to shut everyone up.”

A moment later, Horan channeled contempt into a 62nd-minute header off Rose Lavelle’s corner kick. The teams finished in a 1-1 draw, leaving both well positioned to qualify for the round of 16 when group play concludes Tuesday.

Following this match, van de Donk was explaining what happened, in Dutch and English, when Horan walked behind her and gave her a playful push or pinch. They glanced at each other and laughed.

They had embraced on the field after the final whistle, too.

No hard feelings. Just hard tackles.

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“It was just a duel on the sideline that I won. She is a bit like me; she got a bit feisty,” van de Donk said. “We just had a little talk.”

Horan had the final say, though.

“That’s where you get the best football from Lindsey,” Horan said of the episode motivating her.

“She gets fouled, kicked, hurt, and obviously it’s a very difficult moment,” U.S. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “And instead of crying about it, she just goes and makes a statement, and basically shows everyone where the direction of the game is going to take.”

Players on the U.S. women’s national soccer team spoke to reporters after tying the Netherlands on July 27. (Video: Courtesy of FIFA)

A ‘shift in the game’ after Horan’s goal

The U.S. team fed off Horan’s goal.

“You could feel the shift in the game, and you could feel us gaining the momentum,” defender Naomi Girma said.

Although the Americans did not score again despite numerous opportunities, the second-half response left them in a good mind-set heading into Tuesday’s match against Portugal (1-1-0) in Auckland.

They and the Netherlands are tied with four points apiece, but the United States has the edge in the first tiebreaker: goal differential (plus-3 vs. plus-1). The Dutch will close against Vietnam (0-2-0). The reward for finishing first probably is getting to dodge Sweden in the round of 16.

Aside from Horan’s goal, the U.S. delegation was heartened by the overall response after a troublesome first half in which Jill Roord scored early.

“We saw them break us down quite a few times in the first half,” forward Alex Morgan said. “It didn’t really happen in the second half that much.”

In the second half, the U.S. team was “attacking wave after wave after wave,” Morgan said. “I feel like that was important. We didn’t get what we wanted — just three points — but it’s an important piece to this journey that both the veterans and the new players kind of needed.”

After reaching a historic pay equity deal in 2022, the USWNT offers advice to others fighting for equal compensation. (Video: Hadley Green/The Washington Post)

Rose Lavelle’s playing time

The first pivotal moment came at the start of the second half, when Andonovski inserted midfielder Rose Lavelle, whose creativity, vision and footwork brought a fresh attacking dimension.

“Rose Lavelle was pretty good for America,” van de Donk said. “They did very well in the second half.”

Buckner: The USWNT remains unbeaten, but its dominance is missing

Until the opener against Vietnam, when she entered about 16 minutes into the second half, Lavelle had not played since she injured a knee in April. She seemed on pace to start against the Netherlands, but Andonovski said afterward that Lavelle remains limited to about 45 minutes for medical reasons. Rather than use her in the first half, Andonovski said he figured she would have a greater impact in the second.

As the tournament transpires, Lavelle’s playing time seems certain to swell.

“It will certainly be more, but we’re going to have to check with the medical team,” Andonovski said. “It could be 90 minutes” in the near future.

The U.S. team needs her influence. In the first half Thursday, it struggled to sustain meaningful possession and did not create many quality opportunities for top-scorer Morgan and winger Sophia Smith, who scored twice against Vietnam.

It finished with an 18-4 shot advantage, but only four were on target. The corner kick count was 11-1.

This almost-empty performance came five days after a maddening number of missed chances against badly overmatched Vietnam. Over two matches, the United States has scored four goals.

Playing from behind, though, offered lessons in resiliency. Not since the 1999 quarterfinals had the United States recovered from a halftime deficit to earn a victory or draw.

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“It’s one thing to have an experienced team and to do that, but it’s a lot bigger with a younger team,” Andonovski said.

Added Horan: “It’s great for us to have this in the group stage to feel that kind of pressure. Now we move forward.”

What to know about USA vs. Portugal

The U.S. women’s national team is set to face Portugal in its final group-stage match. The Netherlands will play Vietnam, which already has been eliminated. The Americans will meet Portugal at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, which was also the site of the first U.S. game of this tournament.

Game time: 3 a.m. Eastern time Aug. 1.

TV info: Fox and Telemundo.

U.S. World Cup goal scorers: Sophia Smith scored twice in the Group E opener against Vietnam, and Lindsey Horan also added a goal. The United States beat Vietnam, 3-0, in that match. Horan had the lone U.S. goal in a 1-1 draw vs. the Netherlands.

Tiebreaker and advancements scenarios for the World Cup can be found here. A look at the Group E table is below.


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