Sports is always better when there is a villain to cheer against. For U.S. women’s soccer, that villain for many years was easily, without hesitation, Marta.
Since the minute the five-time World Player of the Year embarrassed them in the 2007 World Cup semifinal, some U.S. players and fans viewed Marta as enemy number one. That escalated further four summers ago, when Marta was a Abby Wambach “OMG Legendary” header/goalkeeper mistake (where have we heard that one before for Brazil) from single-handedly beating the U.S. again while leading a diving parade by her fellow teammates.
But as time passes, things don’t always stay the same. And with Brazil’s elimination now and Marta possibly fading, a new top villain has emerged fully in for the national team. Lady Andrade and upstart Colombia are the new no. 1 nemesis of American women’s soccer.
More than any of Germany, France or even Canada’s players, the 23-year-old has become the fresh face every soccer loving Yank loves to hate at the moment. It was all set in stone at 2012 Olympics with her infamous cheap shot elbow at Wambach. The incident barely received any attention in Colombia, since women’s soccer didn’t warrant any attention back then, other than being a developing program. They had lost to the U.S. 3-0 in back-to-back summers and had a lot of work to do.
Now that elbow is the epicenter to why Andrade has become more public enemy than anything Flava Flav is doing nowadays (such as helping Snopp Dogg DJ in Las Vegas on the night of Mayweather-Pacquiao’s debacle) . Colombia’s tremendous advancement out of Group D, and Andrade’s tremendous play to enable it, has put the team in the spotlight for the elbow to be remembered. It was always going to come back up the minute this matchup had a chance to be made. But instead of being a past moment of idiotic immaturity from a then 19-year-old, Andrade’s words over the past few days have made U.S. fans remember the feisty rising force they want to give another lesson to.
Well aware of everyone and their madres in the U.S. soccer media saying the States should win this one, Andrade lashed out about how her team was predictably being dismissed. “[The U.S. media] belittle us,” Andrade told USA Today sports. “They think we’re a team they’re going to walk all over and it will be an easy game for them. We’re going to beat them since they like to talk so much.”
Andrade’s brashness was met with stern laughter and “wait until we show her again” perspective from U.S. media. Former Mexican international, multiple television gig extraordinaire and no-nonsense Texan Monica Gonzalez said “what is she talking about” in response to Andrade’s comments on Fox Sports’ Saturday edition of World Cup Tonight, thinking the midfielder was referring to the U.S. women’s national team players being dismissive to Colombia (which they haven’t).
“These girls are extremely empowered,” a puzzled Gonzalez said. “I don’t think they ever had press training or media training before, they learned their lessons after the fact.” Closing off her Andrade rant in style, she added, “She needs to live up to her (first) name a little bit.”
In fairness to Andrade, she was definitely referring solely to the U.S. media and not the players, but the potential damage has been done. With almost a 110 percent guarantee that her comments were going to come back to them, the likes of Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Wambach didn’t provide any response other than the proverbial Colombia is a rising dangerous team and we will not take them lightly.
Translation: We will try to destroy them now, more than in the past two global major tournaments.
Of course, the U.S. did not destroy, or even play well, against Sweden, despite all the words from Pia Sundhage from a New York Times interview from a billion years before the tournament even started. But Sweden had the experience and quality to at least tie the U.S. after 90 minutes. Colombia has growing but still limited quality, as well as no experience in a World Cup or Olympic knockout stage. It would be a complete shock if the now last CONMEBOL nation in Canada 2015 ended up even close to an upset, especially with starting goalkeeper Sandra Sepúlveda suspended.
But those thoughts won’t stop Andrade and her teammates from believing her words right to the opening kickoff. Yoreli Rincón, the player who was supposed to be The PowerPuff Girls’ top star (because Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup’s label is a much more intimidating and better nickname than the Coffee Growers), came out with one more interesting pre-match quote. While the United States is taller and more athletic, Rincon stated, “they don’t have the heart that we Colombians have.”
It is a heart and passion that has led Andrade to being the new prime villain in the U.S. soccer community. Whether she can sustain that title like Marta has for some many years by pulling the biggest upset in women’s World Cup history is unlikely. But the likelihood over her believing that is less than her trading jerseys with Wambach after the match.