REIMS, France — Take the pearl clutching and righteous indignation somewhere else. This is the World Cup, not a rec league tournament.
There are some who seem to think the U.S. women’s 13-0 thrashing of Thailand on Tuesday night was piling on, that their celebrating of every goal was unseemly.
You want the Americans to impose the slaughter rule or patronize their opponents by pretending they didn’t just tack another goal onto the scoreline? Go join the 6-year-olds in the park. Maybe you’ll get a participation trophy and an orange slice while you’re at it.
This is high-level competition, and the Americans have no reason to apologize for treating it as such.
“You don’t want to take your foot off the pedal because you want to respect the game and play through and play them as we would play anyone else,” Kelley O’Hara said. “It is a tournament. Goal differential matters.
“At the end of the day, you can’t feel bad for scoring as many goals as possible.”
Nor should they feel bad about celebrating them.
Some keyboard warriors accused the Americans of poor sportsmanship for continuing to celebrate as the score neared, and then went into, double digits. As if Mallory Pugh was supposed to pretend she wasn’t ecstatic about scoring her first World Cup goal. As if Alex Morgan was supposed to ignore the fact she’d just tied a record Michelle Akers set 28 years ago by scoring five goals.
As if the Americans pretending they hadn’t just tagged Thailand with yet another goal would have made their opponents feel so much better.
As for the manner in which the Americans celebrated, let me know where the chart is for what is acceptable and when. The Thai players knew they were getting overrun. The exuberant U.S. celebrations were the least of their woes.
“We accept the score today,” Thailand coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian said. “We haven’t done enough. We accept that they are very strong and they were excellent all around. We accept our mistakes and we are going to improve.”
If there’s blame to be had, it’s for FIFA and the federations that won’t put the money into developing programs. The Americans are the best team in the world, defending World Cup champions, and it’s not up to them to play down to someone else’s level or worry about sparing anyone’s feelings.
“For these players, four years now some of them have been working, some of them even longer,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “I don’t find it my job to go and harness my players and rein them in. This is a world championship.”
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Ellis then asked, rightly, if we’d be having this same discussion about a 10-0 thrashing if it was the men’s World Cup. And we all know the answer to that because we see it every weekend in September, when Alabama, Clemson and every other football powerhouse bulldozes a Football Subdivision patsy, and no one bats an eye.
I also don’t remember folks piling on the Dream Team as it routed everyone in its way at the Barcelona Olympics. Folks were too busy enjoying the show.
But I digress.
Had the Americans taken their foot off the gas, it would have been far more offensive to Thailand, the ultimate sign of condescension from a powerhouse team. The U.S. women see everyone’s best game, and they ought to give as good as they get.
Besides, what level of lopsidedness would have been appropriate? Should they have throttled it back after the seventh goal? Or the eighth? After halftime even, when it was 3-0? Why not just call the game after the U.S. scored its first goal, given that was all that was needed.
Except goal differential matters in the World Cup, and easing up could cause problems for the U.S. later in the tournament. The top two teams from each group advance and while it’s pretty much a given the U.S. will be one of them, it cannot assume that Sweden won’t have a goalapalooza of its own.
Getting players confidence, getting momentum, those are the names of the game at the World Cup and that’s what the U.S. did.
“It’s how you want to start a tournament. You want to have this feeling,” Ellis said. “It’s having players feeling good about their game.”
It surely doesn’t hurt, either, that the Americans sent a message to all those who looked at their last game at a major international tournament, that quarterfinal exit at the Rio Olympics, and wondered if it was the first signs of a dying dynasty.
No one will be wondering that anymore.
“We wanted to make a statement,” Julie Ertz said. “We wanted to come together and show all the tools that we have.”
It’s not the U.S. women’s problem that this was the best Thailand can do. It’s not their job to make anyone feel better about a drubbing.
The Americans have a title to defend, and they’re not about to apologize for the aggressive – and enthusiastic – manner in which they do it. If you don’t like it, then stick to watching games in the park.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.