The USWNT had just put the finishing touches on the most lopsided beatdown in the history of the World Cup when Fox Sports analyst Rob Stone put his foot into his mouth in the name of sportsmanship.
After Alexi Lalas correctly pointed out that the U.S. women were right to keep their collective foot on the gas pedal, Stone claimed it was disrespectful for them to continue to try and score goals with the result in hand. The panel of Kelly Smith, Heather O’Reilly, Ariane Hingst, and Lalas all agreed he was wrong.
“I understand your point, but this one was done,” Stone said. “This got humiliating at some point. It just became an exercise in target practice for the United States.”
When Lalas asked Stone what he would’ve preferred, he replied, “You know what I want them to do? Pull it back. Knock it around.” No!
The U.S. has every incentive to keep scoring, because goal differential could decide who finishes first in Group F. The U.S. and Sweden—who knocked out the USWNT at the 2016 Olympics—are the likely teams to finish first and second in their group. If they tie head-to-head, goal differential would determine who has to play Canada or the Netherlands, and who gets to play the second-place team in Group B. That’s worth the effort.
While the USWNT sealed the game rather early, every individual player still needed to play well to compete for starting jobs and playing time. When substitutes Carli Lloyd and Mallory Pugh entered the game, they didn’t go at half speed. They took advantage of their opportunities, in hopes that they could play in the more consequential matches down the line.
Also, it’s fun to score goals.