PARIS — Three days after the United States women’s national team put a record World Cup hurting on Thailand with a 13-0 offensive explosion, fans across the globe are still passionately debating whether the U.S. players went overboard in overly celebrating a few of the late goals.
Here in France, the American players have a sense of the scale of the controversy. But for the most part, they’ve avoided it by staying bunkered down at their hotel on the banks of the Seine River, blissfully immune to the ongoing internet fallout, and not at all by accident.
“I’ve been off social media, and that’s one reason why,” said U.S. forward Mallory Pugh, who netted the Americans’ 12th tally on Tuesday in Reim, of the hubbub. “I’m glad I have been.”
At 21 years old, Pugh is the second-youngest member of the USA’s 23-woman roster. For most people her age, staying connected to the outside world via an electronic device is as natural as putting on socks in the morning. That probably goes for the rest of the U.S. team, too.
It’s no secret that discourse on the internet isn’t always heathy, especially for people in the public eye. So in the months leading up to this World Cup, with the potential for distraction from the singular objective of repeating as champions a legitimate concern, some of the squad’s newer players have taken the same approach as Pugh by actively and deliberately insulating themselves from any communication that might take up valuable mental real estate at a time when total focus is required. It hasn’t been an easy process.
“I’ve actually been deleting social media every camp since about last year,” said 24-year-old midfielder Rose Lavelle, who, like Pugh, is competing in her first World Cup this summer. “I kind of knew if I didn’t maybe start slowly trying to wean off it, it could be something that maybe negatively affected me during this tournament.”
The self-imposed media blackout hasn’t been limited to just to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and the like. Players are also refraining from reading traditional news stories and watching video reports, according to midfielder Samatha Mewis.
“I don’t really think we as a team are super involved in watching and reading a lot of media about ourselves, to be honest,” said Mewis. “It can be really consuming if you’re caught up in it, and I think that like Rose, a lot of us have just tried to spend less time on social media or looking at media in general.”
Observing the embargo while not cutting off communication entirely can be a delicate balance. After her two-goal performance in her debut on her sport’s grandest stage, Mewis wanted to respond to some of her well-wishers. “At times there are so many positive things, and you want to interact with people,” she said.
Perhaps not surprisingly, veteran forward Carli Lloyd, at 36 the most senior U.S. player, seems to have found that sweet spot better than anyone. On Thursday, she had an online exchange with Thailand keeper Sukanya Chor Charoenying after she took to social media to thank Lloyd for her encouraging words following the blowout.
“I’m not sitting there all day long searching through Twitter, but the Tweet [from] the Thailand goalkeeper, I’m kinda happy I saw that,” Lloyd said. “If I didn’t see that, and I was blacked out and not on Twitter, it would’ve gone unnoticed.”
All you can do is give it your best each and every day. Keep fighting and never give up!! Still 2 more games to play. 😊 https://t.co/pFW4wEK8Nb
— Carli Lloyd (@CarliLloyd) June 13, 2019
Lloyd can probably afford to stay connected more than her more impressionable teammates. This is her fourth World Cup. At this stage of her sterling career, she’s not as likely to be fazed by negative chatter anyway.
“It’s a little bit different this time around,” Lloyd said. “I’m a lot older. I don’t really care what people think.”
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