Solo! Alex! Megan! Abby! Stephanie! Sophie!
Screams and squeals burst out into a beautiful night in Portland. Buoyed by a vibrant and exciting 3-0 win by the U.S. Women’s National Team over Canada, both teams were treated to a true Soccer City, U.S.A. crowd who were thrilled to see them play.
As the crowd began to settle into their seats, both teams knew they were in for a special environment. “I think we were just grinning out there the whole time,” said U.S. defender and University of Portland alum Stephanie Cox. “During warmups, I had a big smile on my face. This crowd was incredible and great to get a 3-0 win against Canada.”
While the first half was scoreless, crowd favorite and fellow UP alum Megan Rapinoe hit the cross bar not once, but TWICE.
“I don’t know how you chip a ball into the crossbar from inside the six [yard box], but I did it,” the midfielder lamented. “I thought the other one was going to drop.”
WATCH: USWNT talks postgame about the win
But the second half brought a crowd-pleasing three goals for the Americans—two from Abby Wambach who scored the last time she played here at then-PGE Park in a friendly against Mexico in 2007—and the other from forward Alex Morgan. Given Wambach’s history to score while in Portland, what makes it so special?
“I think that we brought the sunshine so that’s one thing,” said Wambach. “The other thing is the fans. That makes you want to play even harder. Over 18,000 people were here tonight and I felt it. The energy is different. I wanted to give people something to cheer about.”
Much has been said about Portland as Soccer City, U.S.A. It is a name that goes back to the NASL days and it has adjusted and grown along with the various iterations of soccer in the Rose City but to have an American team play here makes a true impact.
Moreover, with three players on the pitch with Portland roots—the aforementioned Rapinoe and Cox for the U.S. along with Sophie Schmidt for Canada all being University of Portland alums—plus a goalkeeper from Seattle in Hope Solo and a forward in Morgan who dates a member of that “other” MLS team in the Pacific Northwest, the game had a decidedly Cascadian feel.
“I am so proud to have played here in Portland,” said Lopez. “When they announced the three of us [at the beginning of the match] that we came from the University of Portland, you just have pride in that the fans respect that and they feel that we’re their own.”
Added the Canadian Schmidt, “The cheers at the beginning of the game when they announced my name is welcoming. Even though they’re not cheering for my team, this is my second home.”
And if there’s any question where the epicenter of soccer is in this country, Lopez made her feelings known. “This is the best crowd in the nation,” she said. “The pitch was awesome and tonight is just perfect soccer weather and a great win.”
The ever ebullient Rapinoe was buzzing all night looking for a goal and while she was shutout in one of her favorite cities, she leaves happy. “I love football,” she said. “This [crowd] is why I play. I love interacting with the fans. I like a crazy crowd and to have this kind of support and this kind of energy, it just totally changes the game for me. It makes it that much more special.”