Survive and advance. That’s the principal mindset for any athlete competing in an elimination match.
Tensions are high and every moment counts. You’re playing to leave it all on the field, while the risk of losing everything and being sent home lurks in the back of your mind. The most nerve-racking part of it all is that on the other side of a possible loss is the end of a cycle. It could be the end of an era, one that prompts people and circumstances around you to change. In any given elimination match, you could experience the last time a specific group of players will take the field together in hopes of achieving a common goal: winning it all.
There’s no doubt that the U.S. women’s national team’s players are locked into that mindset right now ahead of their Round of 16 clash with Sweden on Sunday. I’m sure of it, because I’ve played with a number of these USWNT stars in similar knockout situations in the past.
Let’s go back a few summers to 2018.
What it’s like playing in an elimination game
Five of the fourteen Women’s World Cup debutantes on the USWNT’s current roster were part of the U.S.’s Under-20 Women’s World Cup team in 2018. Savannah DeMelo, Emily Fox, Sophia Smith, Naomi Girma, and Ashley Sanchez all represented the United States at that tournament in France, along with myself and a host of other talented individuals.