US Women’s Soccer Team delights rabid fan base in pre-Olympic sendoff

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The fans wouldn’t leave and the party wouldn’t end.

Long after the final whistle of the United States Women’s National Team’s 4-0 victory over Mexico in East Hartford, Conn., many of the 27,758 fans remained. 

Billed as the Send-Off Series — two games against Mexico in the same location — the matches  on July 1 and 5 provided a Fourth of July weekend blast for soccer fans. The beloved roster of mainly veteran players who have won World Cups and Olympic gold medals while fighting for equal pay left this week  for Tokyo. Their first game representing the United States in the Olympic Games is on July 21, two days before opening ceremonies. 

Monday’s match included post-game individual and team photo opportunities near the player entrance at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. The team boasts a 44-game unbeaten streak heading into the Olympic Games. 

When I packed up my photography gear from my spot sitting in front of a rowdy band of American Outlaws soccer fans, walked back to the press box one last time and left the stadium 45 minutes later, fans were still inside and outside the buzzing stadium, eating ice cream sold by food trucks, buying souvenirs, juggling soccer balls and gathering at the exits near the team buses, hoping for a glimpse of the players as they left. 


U.S. Soccer knows how to throw a party and it was Megan Rapinoe’s birthday. The team’s enduring gifts to its fans were plentiful during the game: hugs after spectacular goals, plenty of smiles and mutual public displays of affection between a dominant team and its fanbase. 

Attending women’s national team sporting events is a thrill. After the Olympics, many of the U.S.  teams we love or will grow to love will tour the United States. Scour the internet and plan now. For example, the Gold Over American Tour starring Simone Biles is scheduled for Hartford XL Center on Nov. 2.  

Just a glimpse into my social media feeds last week and it was apparent the two-game USWNT sendoff was attended by many fans from the Capital Region. 

A group of Albany Alleycats’ soccer families made the easy trek to Hartford Thursday, paying $36 each to see the best players in the world. They sat in the bleachers, close to the field.

Albany Alleycat Abby deMoulpied of Colonie made the USWNT Instagram page when she attended the Send-Off Series match against Mexico at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn. on July 1, 2021.

Albany Alleycat Abby deMoulpied of Colonie made the USWNT Instagram page when she attended the Send-Off Series match against Mexico at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn. on July 1, 2021.

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And 11-year-old Abby deMoulpied of Colonie was featured on the USWNT Instagram fan page. 

“The crowd was amazing. Abby had that picture taken when she sat down with her friends in the front row and waved to the photographer. They just happened to get her out of the 21,000 people in attendance that day,” said her mom Vinnie deMoulpied. 

A downpour kept the attendance down on Thursday but didn’t deter fans from watching their heroes in a steady rain that night. A stadium usher said the smaller crowd Thursday seemed even louder than the 29,000 on Monday.

“Both crowds were tremendous,” he said, adding that he was especially happy to see his fellow stadium employees back to work. 

Two of my nieces, sisters Emily Martin of Averill Park and Colleen Mason of Colonie attended the Monday game in their first post-pandemic outing together since Colleen gave birth to her first child, her now 8-month-old son Isaac. 

“Getting to see the US Women’s Team play has always been a dream of mine. Getting to experience it with my sister made it even sweeter,” Martin said. 

“We got to see the USNWT at their final game before they head to Tokyo. Being a part of their last game and the special Send-Off Ceremony is something we will cherish forever,” said Kiera Hovey of Cohoes, another one of my special nieces. Her two young girls play soccer for the Alleycats.

For me, it was my first stadium outing since watching a Team USA women’s basketball exhibition game against the UConn Huskies women’s team, also in Hartford, in February 2020.  And what a way to dive back into watching women play live sports. 

Crystal Dunn of the US Women's Soccer National Team and Mexico's Alison Gonzalez during a Send-Off Series match against Mexico at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn. on Monday, July 5, 2021. The U.S. won 4-0 over Mexico. (Joyce Bassett / Special to the Times Union)

Crystal Dunn of the US Women’s Soccer National Team and Mexico’s Alison Gonzalez during a Send-Off Series match against Mexico at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn. on Monday, July 5, 2021. The U.S. won 4-0 over Mexico. (Joyce Bassett / Special to the Times Union)

Joyce Bassett / Special to the Times Union

My top three moments:

1. The American Outlaws cheering section. The Outlaws support men’s, women’s and youth U.S. National soccer teams and include chapters in most cities, including Albany, based at Wolff’s Biergarten, and Saratoga Springs, based at Bailey’s Cafe. Hearing a mix of soccer-crazed fans — mostly guys — chant “Equal Pay” and “U.S.A” to a constant drumbeat provided all the feels to get pumped for an Olympic medal run in soccer. 

2. The goal that wasn’t. The ref waved off a spectacular series of passes and a stunning finish from US soccer star Christen Press because of an accidental whistle. Press is my player to watch this Olympic Games.

3. The play of Crystal Dunn. Through my 600-meter lens, I followed Dunn who was on the left flank in front of me for the second half. The stadium roared each time she adeptly weaved through Mexico’s defense or came up with a takeaway in the defensive zone.  In the first half she made a perfect cross for Carli Lloyd’s header goal in the 11th minute. “She’s a super good defender, but also can break teams down on the attacking side. It’s a quality that not many players in the world have, whether it’s in the female or the male game,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski told U.S.A. Today in a terrific profile by Nancy Armour. 

But it wouldn’t be a USWNT game without some “controversy” and some players were criticized online for disrespecting the playing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I watched the performance at field level and in no way did any player disrespect 98-year-old World War II veteran “Harmonica Pete” DuPre, who performed our national anthem. Some players looked at the flag in the end zone. Other players turned to look at DuPre out of respect. Players wrongly were criticized online and in many videos posted to YouTube — videos with sensational headlines that are still generating views by the way — for “turning their backs on a veteran.”

DuPre, from Fairport, a suburb of Rochester, is a long-time fan of women’s soccer. He has performed the National Anthem to packed stadiums all around the world and told Spectrum News out of Rochester: “It felt great,” he said. “I thought it was great. I had a ball.”


We all had a ball. United we stand for DuPre, women in sports and all our U.S. teams heading to the Olympics. 

Joyceb10bassett@gmail.com • @joyceb10bassett • https://blog.timesunion.com/allin

#womenworthwatching

• The USWNT in soccer will face Sweden on July 21 in Tokyo (4:30 a.m. ET), New Zealand on July 24 in Satiama (7:30 a.m. ET) and Australia July 27 in Kashima (4:00 a.m. ET) in Group G play.

• This column is sponsored by Times Union Women@Work, the Capital Region’s network of business and professional women. Join today at: https://womenatworkny.com

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