PHILADELPHIA—It was quite a night at Lincoln Financial Field when the U.S. Women’s soccer team arrived for their friendly against Portugal. It marked the second stop on the U.S. Women’s National Team’s Victory Tour. It was an occasion to not just recognize their winning the recent Women’ World Cup but to celebrate the cause of female empowerment.
A crowd of 49,504 fans, a record crowd for a U.S. friendly, were on hand. Many of them were school-aged girls. To them, the result, a 4-0 U.S. win over Portugal was in some ways immaterial. Win, lose or draw, the 23 women in the red uniforms, trimmed in blue and white, were their idols, and role models.
And the players know it.
“I think our team takes that really seriously,” said veteran midfielder Julie Ertz. “It’s about inspiring the next generation. It’s about growing women’s soccer, obviously domestically here, but globally as well and I think being able to see and have role models, to see how that is possible, that’s just a huge thing.”
The 27-year old Ertz points out that she didn’t have an abundance of female athletes who she could emulate when she was growing up. “I didn’t really see women’s sports, let alone women’s soccer on TV that much,” she said, “so for it to be as accessible ass it is now, to be able to see it, and dream that, and to have that possibility and the opportunity to do this; to see it come to fruition I think is huge, so that’s been really cool.
“That’s really the fun part of the job, to be able to see young girls and talk to them. They want to be in our shoes one day and continue to grow soccer here.”
For U.S. coach Jill Ellis, who is stepping aside, the Victory Tour is the last hurrah. She sees the accomplishments of the national team as a source of inspiration for other women, whatever their dreams, goals, or ambitions. “It’s just a wonderful representation of things I think that are important for women to advance in society,” she said. “I think there’s a sense of power in terms of just being strong, committed in the way they play, the way they get after it. I think they’re inspirational. “I think that’s also important because of what they stand for, on the field and off the field.”
Ellis believes the UWNT’s success has had a global impact. “I think they’re helping not just young boys and girls in our country, but all over the world,” she said. “I think that was the fallout from the World Cup, that the team went global and I’ve heard from many, many people that this team has been a source of inspiration, so I think it’s symbolic of driven women, wanting to achieve a dream, a goal, and pursuing that and achieving that. “I think for young people to look at this group of women and see them achieve something like a World Cup trophy, a victory, whatever you want to call it, I think that’s a good message.”
Tobin Heath (4th minute), Morgan Brian (18th) Carli Loyd (52nd) and Allie Long (82nd) scored the U.S. goals. Lloyd, a native of nearby Delran, N.J. started the game and wore the captain’s armband.
“It was great,” Lloyd said. “A super, super proud moment to be here playing tonight. I had a lot of family and friends scattered throughout the stadium. To have played here at the Linc is just really special.”
Adrianna Franch went the full 90 minutes in goal in just her international appearance with the national team, making one save. “Coming from France, we were able to see what (a large crowd) was like,” she said, “but for it to be everybody cheering for the U.S., it just shows everything that we’ve done in the World Cup and how much it’s impacted this nation. It’s beautiful.”
Wednesday’s crowd was the ninth largest in history for a USWNT match on American soil. Six of those were during the 1999 Women’s World Cup, the other two were during the 1996 Olympic Games.
Next on the Schedule: The USWNT continues the Victory Tour with a rematch against Portugal in Minneapolis-St. Paul at Allianz Field on Sept. 3 (7 p.m. CT; ESPN2).