Lavelle: The mentality of this team is so special

  • Rose Lavelle emerged as one of the stars of France 2019

  • The USWNT star speaks with in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview

  • Women's World Cup win "still hasn’t really hit me"

Rose Lavelle was one of the breakout stars of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™. Her goal in the tournament decider showcased everything that is special about the Cincinnati-born midfielder: creativity, drive and quality. caught up with the adidas Bronze Ball winner in the midst of the national team's victory tour and the business end of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) to hear her reflections on a whirlwind few months and the achievement of a dream in France.

LYON, FRANCE - JULY 02: Rose Lavelle of the USA runs with the ball during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Semi Final match between England and USA at Stade de Lyon on July 02, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

What was it like going into your first senior World Cup, getting into tournament mode, surrounded by so many experienced players and former winners?

It was great. I came at a really cool time when there was kind of a new wave of younger players coming in but also still a lot of veteran players who have a lot of experience and I’m learning so much from them constantly, on and off the field. Having their experience going into the tournament was really helpful because we did have a lot pressure both externally and internally. A lot of people had expectations for us, so having people who had been through it before and come out successful was a big strength for us because they helped lead us to get to that point.

In the year or so leading up to France 2019 there were observations that the team was in a period of transition, so leaving with the trophy looks like a real triumph of melding those generations.

I feel like the mentality of this team is something so special, but it’s not even been just this team - it’s been the mentality of this program going back to even the very first team back in 1985. Then obviously there’s the 99ers; I feel like it’s the mentality of this program and a legacy that keeps getting passed on. I feel like we were able to carry on that legacy during this past tournament. When I grew up watching the USA it was something you always can see on the field: this never-say-die, never-quit mentality. To actually be a part of it, experience it and feel it for yourself, it’s so special.

That first game you got yourself settled very quickly, scored two goals on your World Cup debut and obviously it was a convincing win. But the reaction to it seemed to give you an us-against-the world mentality as well.

It felt like we were everyone’s most-loved team and most-hated team at the same time. People like to perceive that as arrogant or cocky but I don’t think it was. I felt like it was a confidence. We were confident in how we played and who we were playing with, and we were honestly embracing the moment; it’s a moment we’ve worked our whole lives for. We were enjoying the game and embracing the moment and playing on that stage.

But to be honest, we also stayed off social media. I think that helped because there was a lot of controversy and criticism of our team, so I feel like putting that on the back-burner and not reading too much into it also helped.

With you not taking in all that external noise going around from fans and media, when you got to the game against France in the quarter-finals, it really felt like the final before the final. How was it to be involved in that game because the atmosphere was pretty special in the Parc des Princes?

It was incredible. When we ran out for warm-ups there were fans chanting ‘USA’ and I thought it was such a cool moment being the away team in a stadium full of French fans and to still have that support was really cool. That was the big hump to get over in the tournament and we really had to grit it out and defend a lot, but we had that never-quit attitude and we knew what we had to do going into game. I felt like we executed it really well, and thankfully things went our way.

You got past England in the semis and you’re lining up in the final in what was your first World Cup, how were you feeling on the day going into the stadium? Are you a player who gets nervous before games?

I honestly felt pretty good. We had beat France and England and both those teams were very capable of being in the final themselves. I felt like we had so much confidence, even more so than we did before, having gone through those games. I actually felt really good and excited going into the final. There was no pressure about what would happen if we lost and went home and there would be more teams playing after us. It was a ‘this is it’ moment. That gave me a sense of calm and confidence and it was probably the most calm I’ve felt going into a game.

The first hour or so of the final was so tense and those eight minutes, capped off with your goals, must’ve been such an incredible release.

It was, that’s what I say. When we finally broke through and scored, I was so excited and so relieved. When I got the second goal, I felt even more relieved because I felt like we had the edge and were controlling the game. I knew if we defended and had that same kind of gritty mentality we had the whole tournament, the game would be ours and thankfully that’s what happened.

With your goal, can you remember how it felt bearing down on the Dutch backline before actually finishing the job?

I remember Crystal [Dunn] made a great tackle and stopped their counter-attack and passed it off to Sam [Mewis]. Sam did a great job drawing in their midfield and passed it to me. I don’t think they had given up a lot of space the whole game, so I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to dribble at people. But in that instance I did. Alex [Morgan] did a great job of occupying their centre-backs by making a run and I was hoping for one of them to commit to me so I could slip it into her but they never did, so I decided to shoot and thankfully it went in. There were a lot of moving pieces and a lot of things that people did that made that happen.

Do you remember much of the celebrations and how was it basking in that moment on the field and then later that night?

I honestly thought I’d be super emotional and crying, but it was more like pure happiness. There was definitely relief that all the work we put in paid off. The celebrations were really fun. I’m usually one to just sit on my couch, but I knew this happens only once every four years, so I needed to make the most of it.

There was also the photo of you as a school kid, dressed as your hero Mia Hamm, which really put into focus how far you've come.

I was so obsessed with that team and Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, and I felt like they were such great role models for me and I wanted to be in their shoes one day so much. I feel it's cool that it's come full circle and now can serve as the same kind of role model to younger kids as they did to me. Hopefully I can inspire some kids to get to this place too.