Since the Fourth of July is near, I figured it’s a good time to write about what the holiday means to me — pride in one’s country.
Despite some of the country’s faults, I’m proud to be American. And it goes beyond just wearing red, white and blue and firing up the barbecue.
Now, as a Filipino-American, I’m also proud of my ethnic roots. I’d be equally as proud to raise the sun and stars as I would the stars and stripes. (I, however, should learn how to speak tagalog. One day, I will.)
Part of what I do to show national pride is cheering on our national teams in international competition, and it just so happens there’s a couple going on right now.
On the bigger stage of the two is the US women’s national team on their quest to win back-to-back championships at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The American women are playing today in what has to be the most hyped match of the tournament as the US matches up with host nation France in the quarterfinals. That match is set for 9 a.m. local time and will be broadcasted on Fox.
In perhaps what is fitting of American sports landscape, offense will be front and center as both teams feature prolific attacks.
The US has three of the tourney’s top goal scorers, and leading the way is co-captain Alex Morgan, who is tied for most goals so far with five. She tallied a hat trick in the team’s opening match — a 13-0 rout against Thailand earlier this month.
Also contributing to the American attack are fellow co-captains Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd with three goals each. In addition, both Morgan and Rapinoe also have three assists.
Leading the way for France is Wendie Renard, who so far has three goals in tournament play. Also contributing to France’s scoring is captain Amandine Henry, Eugenie Le Sommer and Valerie Gauvin with two goals each. Amel Majri leads the teams in assists with three.
Leading up to the tournament, several pundits have spoken of this possible matchup between the US and France in the knockout rounds as what could be the match of the tournament. A game between two highly-ranked teams, that just so happen the defending World Cup champion and the host team, will do that.
The US more or less cruised through the group stage, but then was tested in the quarterfinals in a 2-1 win over Spain. The Americans prevailed on two converted penalty kicks by Rapinoe.
France, meanwhile, seems battle-tested. In three of its four matches, France won by a one-goal margin, including a 2-1 win over Brazil in which Henry scored the game-winning goal in extra time.
If the offenses continue to hold the trend, then the defenses will determine the winner. As the saying goes — defense wins championships.
And if that’s the case, will US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher be able to hold up her end?
Before the tournament, pundits also commented on Naeher and how she will perform as the replacement of long-time US goalie Hope Solo, who was often regarded as the best goalie in the world but was also often criticized for her controversial remarks throughout her career — which led to her termination from the US national team following the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
Naeher so far is 4-0 at the World Cup, but she will likely be very busy in today’s match as France aims to knock off the defending champs.
Also representing the country is the US men’s national team, which is competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
After failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, this year’s Gold Cup is the US team’s first meaningful event under new head coach Gregg Berhalter.
While some of the old guard is still appearing for the US in Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzalez, the youth movement lead by Christian Pulisic is what’s most interesting because it’s maybe a glimpse of the program’s future in qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The US men were 3-0 in winning its group and will face Curacao in the quarterfinals on Sunday. That match is scheduled for 2 p.m. local time.
With the nation’s independence day looming and the country’s national teams in international competition, I will be wearing the red, white and blue and cheering on our teams.
I will wearing the national team jersey that I bought on eBay that I planned to wear during the 2018 World Cup. That plan didn’t go as planned, but I’ll be rocking it this Fourth of July.
Have a happy and safe Fourth, everyone.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.