Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle lead USWNT to historic Women's World Cup win


Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle lead USWNT to historic Women's World Cup win

The United States Women's National Team wanted the pressure. They welcomed it. In France, they thrived on it.

Seeking to win back-to-back Women's World Cup titles for the first time in their country's history, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and the most dominant soccer force on the planet asked for the pressure of playing host nation France in the quarterfinal. Rapinoe specifically hoped it would be a "s--show." Facing the team with the best shot to knock them off, Rapinoe buried two goals to lead the USWNT past France and into the semifinals. 

After a 2-1 win over England, only the underdog Netherlands squad stood between soccer's Goliath and destiny. 

Once again, all the pressure was on the U.S. on Sunday in Lyon. Once again, they thrived as only those who etch themselves into the annals of history can.

The first half belonged to Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal who made four fantastic saves in the first half to keep the game scoreless. 

But with the upstart Dutch feeling confident about knocking off the world's best -- and thoughts of Japan's 2011 upset creeping into consciousness -- the USWNT didn't bend, buckle or flinch. 

They flexed.

In the 58th minute, Morgan went down in the box after being contacted by Stefanie van der Gragt, who's cleat struck Morgan up near her shoulder. While the U.S. initially was given a corner kick, the referee elected to review the play and awarded the USWNT a penalty kick.

Rapinoe stepped up to the dot and calmly broke van Veenendaal wall, scoring her sixth goal of the tournament and 50th career goal for her country.

Holding a 1-0 lead, the USWNT could have looked to hold onto their narrow advantage and leave Lyon with a 1-0 win. Instead, America's heroes smelt blood and went for the kill.

In the 69th minute, with the Dutch pressing up to find an equalizer, the U.S. went on the counter and struck the death blow to the Netherlands.

Rose Lavelle raced down the middle of the Dutch defense, took a quality touch to set up her favored left foot and put it past van Veenendaal with a brilliant strike into the bottom corner.

As the ball found the back of the net, Lavelle let out a primal scream. Her teammates swarmed her, sensing history was within their grasp.

USWNT 2, Netherland 0.

Seven games, seven wins. The party was on.

Rapinoe took home the Golden Boot as the tournament's top scorer and the Golden Ball as its best player. Morgan took home the Silver Boot.

More importantly, the USWNT repeated for the first time in history and became just the second team to retain the trophy.

"We're crazy, that's what makes us special," Rapinoe told FOX after the win. "We have no quit in us, we're so tight and we'll do anything to win.

"It's unbelievable just to know all of the people in our group that put in so much work: the players, our friends and family are here, it's surreal. I don't know how to feel right now, it's ridiculous."

[RELATED: Rapinoe slams FIFA over gender pay gap, scheduling]

The USWNT was crazy, yes. But what made Rapinoe, Morgan, Lavelle and Co. special was how they welcomed the pressure both and off the pitch.

They spoke out on a wealth of issues from the gender pay gap in soccer to the double standard when it comes to celebrations. They spoke eloquently and fiercely and then went out and dominated their opponents.

They injected themselves into the country's bloodstream because they were the embodiment of what so many of us want to be and want our country to represent.

They were brave and talented. Dominant and heroic. Triumphant but gracious.

They were unafraid of the big moment. They thrived under the bright lights. They had the highest expectations and they did the unimaginable by exceeding them.

They are champions.

They are -- as Rapinoe called herself -- "uniquely American."

Watch Harry Maguire wrongly avoid red card, seal Manchester United win

Premier League

Watch Harry Maguire wrongly avoid red card, seal Manchester United win

Harry Maguire shouldn't have been on the pitch to score Monday, but the Manchester United defender made the race for UEFA Champions League qualification much more interesting regardless. 

Maguire's 66th-minute header, his first Premier League goal for Manchester United, controversially doubled the Red Devils' lead in a 2-0 win over fourth-place Chelsea. 

But the 26-year-old should have been sent off 45 minutes prior. 

Maguire kicked out at Michy Batshuayi in the 21st minute after a clearance. It looked remarkably similar to a kick that got Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-min sent off against Chelsea last month, but a VAR check ruled Maguire's kick wasn't violent conduct constituting a red card. 

VAR made Chelsea supporters even angrier about 10 minutes prior to Maguire's header. Kurt Zouma equalized for Chelsea on a set piece, but the video assistant overturned the goal after determining César Azpilicueta fouled United's Brandon Williams. Azpilicueta appeared to be pushed into Williams, but Zouma's equalizer was wiped away regardless. 

Olivier Giroud seemingly pulled one back for Chelsea in the 77th minute, but VAR once again disallowed a Chelsea goal. This time, the decision was correct. 

United's win adds plenty of intrigue to a suddenly competitive race for Champions League places. Second-place Manchester City's two-year ban from European competition, if upheld, would allow the Premier League's fifth-place team to qualify for the Champions League and reap the ensuing financial rewards. 

[RELATED: Check out more Premier League coverage from Sky Sports]

Only seven points separate Chelsea and 11th-place Burnley, and seventh-place Manchester United only are three back of Chelsea. The Red Devils are just two points back of Spurs in fifth place, too.

They can thank Maguire for that, even if he shouldn't been in a position to help them. 

Chelsea-Manchester United live stream: How to watch EPL game online, on TV


Chelsea-Manchester United live stream: How to watch EPL game online, on TV

The pressure is on Chelsea (12-5-8; 41 points).

The fourth-place Blues are only a point ahead of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur (and former manager José Mourinho) in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification. Chelsea are winless in their last three matches, and dropped points Monday against Manchester United (9-8-8; 35 points) at Stamford Bridge would set up a scintillating showdown between the London rivals next Saturday.

A win would rob Mourinho of his desired drama, however, and the Blues would have some much-needed separation between them and their closest rivals. 

Manchester City's Champions League ban could ultimately make it a moot point, but United now have an opportunity thanks to their cross-town rivals. Manchester United are five points back of Spurs (and six back of Chelsea), so an away win would go a long way towards ensuring a legitimate race for the final Champions League spot down the stretch. United haven't won a Premier League match away from home this decade (they beat Burnley 2-0 at Turf Moor on Dec. 28, 2019), and the Red Devils will need to find their form fast. 

[RELATED: Check out more Premier League coverage from Sky Sports

Here's how to watch Monday's Chelsea-Manchester United match online and on TV. 

When: Monday, Feb. 17 at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT
Live stream: NBC Sports