Fittingly an enormous American flag was unfurled prior to the National Women's Soccer League match pitting the FC Kansas City Blues against the Houston Dash on Monday evening. The Stars & Stripes, fluttering in the breeze, served as the perfect patriotic backdrop for a pre-game ceremony honoring the seven players on the two clubs who earlier this month captured the FIFA World Cup as members of Team USA.
Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders presented a proclamation honoring Team USA and FC Kansas City. The Blues, established in 2013, claimed the National Women's Soccer League championship in 2014.
Sanders said, "There's a great saying -- and I always tell this to my sons -- champions aren't made the day they win the big game, they're made in the hours, the weeks, the months, the years of hard work, sweat, blood and toil. That is what we are honoring here tonight, the amazing accomplishment of these players."
County Executive Sanders also gave a commemorative ball, featuring the county seal and the motto "We Believe," to each of the seven World Cup champions on the field.
From FC Kansas City:
•Lauren Holiday, midfielder •Heather O'Reilly, midfielder •Amy Rodriguez, forward •Becky Sauerbrunn, defender From the Houston Dash
•Morgan Brian, midfielder •Meghan Klingenberg, defender •Carli Lloyd, midfielder More than 3,500 fans filled the bleachers at the Swope Soccer Village complex to applaud the Team USA players. The standing-room only crowd saw a tight match played to a 1-1 draw.
Lloyd scored the Dash goal on a free kick that ricocheted off a goal post, then bounced off the back of FC Kansas City keeper Nicole Barnhart and landed inside the net. Lloyd became an American sports icon in the FIFA World Cup Final on July 5, when she netted a hat trick, scoring three goals within the game's first 16 minutes, as Team USA took a commanding 4-0 lead over Japan.
Team USA went to prevail in a 5-2 rout.
Sanders joked with Lloyd on Monday about "upping her game." His son John scored five goals in a recent youth soccer game -- before breaking his arm.
Then Sanders urged the crowd, already on its feet, to give the Team USA seven and all the players from both clubs another ovation.
"A big round of applause," he said, "for all these wonderful players who are changing the face of soccer and women's soccer in this community and around the nation."