Lindsey Horan Got Mad. Then She Got Even

4 minute read

In the first half of the U.S. Women National Team’s (USWNT) group stage matchup against the Netherlands on Wednesday night in Wellington, New Zealand, American midfielder and co-captain Lindsey Horan found herself exasperated, arms extended, since her teammates missed her open on the pitch.

In the second half, Horan found herself chippy, fired up and physical, exchanging pushes with a Dutch player—and pro club teammate—who tackled her too hard. This time, however, Horan would take out her frustration on the soccer ball. With her head.

And America averted a World Cup disaster.

The game ended in a 1-1 draw: Horan’s second half aerial goal, off a Rose Lavelle corner kick, deadlocked the game in the 62nd minute. The U.S. controlled the game after Horan’s score, failing to convert a few opportunities but walking away with a point. (The Americans held a 17-4 advantage in attempts at goal). Both the U.S. and the Netherlands now have four points in their group. Neither team has yet clinched a place in the knockout round, the result the Americans in particular were surely expecting. Both teams have some work to do in their final group stage games. But both the Americans and the Netherlands are in a strong position to advance.

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The Netherlands had taken the lead early. In the 17th minute, the Dutch patiently dissected the U.S. defense and Jill Roord found herself largely unbothered near the top of the 18-yard box. Eight U.S. defenders were in the box with her. But they weren’t close enough to Roord. Her angular strike went through Horan’s legs—she had quite an unpleasant first half—and through the rest of the defense and into the net.

The Americans now trailed in a World Cup game for the first time since 2011.

In the 47th minute, American defender Crystal Dunn had the ball on her foot, out wide to the left. Four Netherlands players honed in on Dunn. Horan stood in the middle of the pitch, arms extended, incredulous that Dunn wasn’t sending a diagonal pass her way, to push the American attack and perhaps create a much-needed scoring chance against the Dutch.

Dunn sent the ball back to Naomi Garma, who also missed Horan, who put her arms out in exasperation for a second time. Dunn got the ball back and pushed it up the sideline—Horan was still open. Dunn and Sophia Smith exchanged passes: Smith, who before the World Cup talked about the singular focus that overcomes her when she sniffs a scoring opportunity, dribbled into the teeth of the Netherlands defense. Horan’s arms went up a third time. Smith lost possession.

Read More: What to Know About the U.S. Soccer Team in the 2023 Women's World Cup

What’s killer instinct in one moment counts as tunnel vision in the next.

For Horan and her teammates, the halftime whistle couldn’t come soon enough. They all needed to regroup. And the switch flipped for the Americans after the break. First off, Lavelle entered the game and provided a spark, almost immediately earning a yellow card for an aggressive tackle. Her instant message: the U.S. would not fall flat in this half.

To that end, moments later Danielle van de Donk hit Horan hard. The U.S. co-captain needed some quick treatment on the sideline. When she returned for a corner kick, Horan let van de Donk, her teammate at Lyon, know she didn’t appreciate such roughness. They exchanged trash talk and pushes. The ref tried to get them to make amends. Neither was really having it.

Horan, however, got the upper hand: the ensuing corner kick to shut down the chatter. Lavelle lifted the ball towards the box. “Rose put in an absolute dime,” Horan said afterwards. Horan leapt and scored the game-tying header.

Turns out that the U.S. would avert its first group stage loss since 2011, a year they reached the World Cup final but lost to Japan. When the match ended, Horan and van de Donk exchanged pleasantries and hugged. All’s fair in World Cup competition: the pair could go back to being buddies now. Luckily for the Americans, however, Horan saved the sportsmanship for after the final whistle.

She got full-on ticked. At just the right moment.

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