Alyssa Naeher is one of the more unassuming, quieter personalities on the team. She doesn’t get the headlines, the press, the marketing etc that those ahead of her on the pitch do but when she’s needed, she steps up.
Long seen as the understudy to Hope Solo, the 2019 World Cup helped remove that label from her and today, she made sure that any whispers of how another goalkeeper would be a better option than her, would be firmly shut down for good.
Despite being dominate throughout the first half, the USWNT faltered in the second. Two goals from Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams had helped ease nerves after Vivianne Miedema had put the Netherlands ahead with a classy goal. Miedema would come back to haunt the USWNT in the second half with a second that Naeher got her hands to but couldn’t keep out.
That could’ve been the main storyline for Naeher. That one shot she just couldn’t reach and thus, allowing the Netherlands to go on and find the winner. That wasn’t what the Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper had in mind. Time and time again, she popped up with vital saves to deny Miedema more than once and any other Dutch attacker that managed to get through the US backline (which happened more often than she would’ve liked). With the game winding down in normal time, Kelley O’Hara fouled Lineth Beerensteyn inside the box and it gave the Dutch a chance to win the game. After a long VAR check, Lieke Martens stepped up only to be denied by Alyssa Naeher.
There’s an old age saying that during a penalty shootout, you only need your goalkeeper to save one. More times than not, that’s true but today, Alyssa Naeher made sure of the win with TWO penalty saves.
The first, she stretched out wide to stop Vivianne Miedema who had put two past her during normal time. She had to wait for awhile to get her moment again but when it came, Naeher shone again. Aniek Nouwen didn’t look comfortable as she walked up to take her penalty but she did look to try and direct it into the corner. Naeher read it perfectly and once again, laid out to produce another save. All she had to do now was wait for her teammates to finish the job and when they did, they ran towards their goalkeeper. Their saviour for the day.
We could talk about how the USWNT had too many goals called back because of the offside flag, or Lynn Williams and her impact on this game. How once again, the USWNT backline was again far too porous or how the USWNT managed to vanquish their penalty demons from five years ago but that’s not what today’s narrative should be about. Today is about Alyssa Naeher. Let’s make sure she gets all the praise and adulation she deserves.