The U.S. Women’s National Team suffers by comparison to its old glories. At the previous World Cup, in 2019, it channeled the best of the American character: magnetic self-confidence that verged on arrogance, individualism that flamboyantly flouted archaic norms. In the press, players jawboned about the president of the United States as they waged war against their own employer in the name of equal pay. On the pitch, they were a hegemonic power: adventurous, righteous, justifiably certain of their destiny.
What the world has witnessed in the early stage of this year’s World Cup, where the team has tied Portugal and the Netherlands, is a display of American decline. The squad prevailed in the battle for equal pay, but it now lacks the cohesion that came with its former sense of idealistic mission. This iteration of the U.S. team is desperately searching for a collective identity—not to mention a midfield structure—and is led by a feckless coach who seems overawed by his position and afraid to assert himself in the hinge moments of matches.