Rose Lavelle: ‘Who do I want to thank for winning the World Cup? Everyone’

World Cup? Everyone’

The USA midfielder scored a standout goal in last year’s final. Her belief that the game should be fun has helped her throughout her career.

Lavelle’s 69th-minute goal in Lyon last Julycapped a World Cup in which the 24-year-old burst onto the global stage. To recap that moment: Lavelle, socks pulled up above her knees, received the ball from Sam Mewis just across the halfway line, saw an ocean of space, and ran at the Dutch defense. Orange shirts backed off and then backed off some more and then backed off again, until Lavelle shot from the edge of the penalty area. Boom - the US were 2-0 up and the deal was sealed.
“There was a lot that went into the goal,” Lavelle says, from her hometown of Cincinnati, seven months on from Lyon. “Crystal Dunn made a great tackle to stop their counterattack and then Sam [Mewis] drew their midfield in and gave it to me. Alex [Morgan] was doing a really great job occupying their center-backs. In the moment, I was just waiting for one of them to step to me so that I could serve it in to Alex but they didn’t do that so I thought, ‘OK. I guess I’m just going to keep going…’ and eventually decided to just take a shot.”
The midfielder describes the moment as if everyone she’s ever met played some role in scoring a World Cup-winning goal. After being swamped by her teammates, Lavelle picked herself up and ran toward the bench, celebrating with players and staff who weren’t on the field.
“I wanted to celebrate with them because that moment was just as much a testament to them as it was the people on the field,” Lavelle says. “It took so many people to win the World Cup. Not just the people who made the final roster but people who had been training and missed the cut and all the staff.”
She pauses to think more about her list of thanks.
Everyone,” she says. “We all came together and worked so hard to get to that moment so it was fun to be able to celebrate with every single person that helped get us there.”
‘Fun’ is a word Lavelle uses frequently when she talks about soccer. It’s notable because it’s a word often missing when elite athletes talk about the everyday grind, or even just playing. Lavelle? Here’s how she describes the World Cup experience: “We just had so much fun together”.
There’s another video of an 11-year-old Lavelle doing juggling tricks in her backyard. Today, she acknowledges her youth coach who ensured fun would drive her as a player.
“I first started playing when I was five and ended up being obsessed with soccer,” she explains. “My coach, Neil Bradford, made it so fun for me and would give me little challenges to do in my backyard. He’s the reason I fell in love with the game. He made every practice and every game so much fun. When you’re that young, fun is why you are doing it. Soccer brings you joy. Even now, when things are hard and I ask why am I doing this in the first place, the answer is because soccer makes you happy.”
In one way, Lavelle is a poster child for youth development in the US. In another, she represents everything that can go wrong with the system. As a kid, Lavelle wanted to play and have fun. As a kid – even a talented one –she was also often overlooked for elite youth pathways and ignored by top college programs.
Rose Lavelle celebrates her goal for the US in last year’s World Cup final
Rose Lavelle celebrates her goal for the US in last year’s World Cup final. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters
Lavelle did eventually find a place within the national youth teams and was called into a senior national team camp at the end of 2015. Still, it would be two more years before she would start a game for the national team. During that time a call from then-USWNT coach Jill Ellis to Lavelle’s University of Wisconsin coach stressed that she was running out of chances to impress. Her debut came in a 1-0 defat to England in 2017, but Lavelle was named Player of the Match. She had impressed.
“My first camp was Abby Wambach’s last and I was so nervous,” Lavelle recalls. “There were players that I had looked up to over the years and now I was sitting at the same dinner table as them. Once you step on the field, you are back doing exactly what you love but it was obviously super competitive and high pressure and it took me a while to feel comfortable and feel that I belonged there. It is pretty intense but you either sink or swim when you get there.”
Lavelle says that high-pressure environment has helped the transition from Ellis’ leadership - she resigned as coach after the World Cup triumph - to new head coach Vlatko Andonovski.
“The atmosphere is still the same with Vlatko because we bring that competitive mentality to everything,” Lavelle says. “It is intense every single time when you come in to camp or step on the field regardless of who the coach is. Everybody knows that there is somebody constantly breathing down your neck for your spot. It’s the reality.”
Next on Lavelle’s to-do list is the SheBelieves Cup in March against England, Spain, and Japan, then the Olympic Games in July. Tokyo provides the World Cup winners with an opportunity to redeem themselves after an underwhelming performance in Rio four years ago.
“The Olympics are a pretty big deal,” says Lavelle. “It will be a totally new experience with a whole new staff and a shorter roster. I didn’t even make the team in 2016 so who am I to say anything but I do think that the people who were there have [an opportunity for] redemption and things to prove. That is good for us. Hopefully, we can do what we set out to do.”
And if Rose Lavelle, the World Cup Final goalscorer, had to send a message to that 11-year-old version of herself juggling the ball in her Cincinnati backyard?
“No matter what people had said to me, I didn’t ever let it deter me from what I saw myself doing,” she says. “No matter how many times people said I was too small or wasn’t good enough, I took it with a grain of salt. If it was something that could help me I would use it but if it was just words that told me I couldn’t do something, I put it behind me. The confidence you have in yourself is going to be the thing to get where you want to go. Rely on that confidence in yourself and not someone else’s opinion of you.”

And, of course, have fun.


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