On a steamy July 2019 afternoon in Lyon, one sweep of Lavelle’s left foot late in the second half of the final against the Netherlands effectively guaranteed the United States its second consecutive title.
Everything has changed around Lavelle in the four years since.
So, in Wednesday’s high-stakes World Cup rematch with the Dutch (coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET, with kickoff at 9 p.m. on FOX and the FOX Sports app), the U.S.’s second group stage contest of the 2023 tournament, USWNT fans are counting on Lavelle to be the difference-maker. And she might well prove to be.
But while this is a new tournament, a new team and a new time, Lavelle is in many ways still the same old Rose.
“I would’ve expected a moment like that to feel like I’m different or change me, you know?” Lavelle said when asked about the play that has defined her career to date. “But I don’t really feel like it did. I feel like it was a goal, and it was fun. But I feel like I’m still just me.”
Sitting next to her, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski quickly interjected.
“Maybe Rose’s life changed, but she hasn’t changed a bit,” Andonovski said. “She’s still the same humble and great person.”
The touching, potentially even slightly awkward moment only lasted a second. Lavelle immediately swiveled her head, flashed a knowingly exaggerated smile, then thanked and fist-bumped Andonovski as the room erupted in laughter.
As important as Lavelle is on the field for the U.S., her presence in the locker room is just as crucial to the Americans chances of becoming the first women’s or men’s team to capture three straight World Cups. Her dry sense of humor and comedic timing clearly hasn’t changed either, and those qualities have continued to endear her to her teammates as much as her skill — which is saying a lot.
Sure, Lavelle is a beloved character inside the locker room. But she also remains one of the very best players in the world.
Better than she was four years ago, even. Just because success and the fame that came with it hasn’t gone to her head doesn’t mean Lavelle’s game hasn’t also steadily improved.
“I obviously I have a lot more experience,” she said. “My mentality is a bit different, I think. Four years ago, I was obviously one of the younger players on the team, one of the most inexperienced players on the team. And I think now I find myself in a different position. Which I think just kind of gives me a little more confidence.
“I feel like I’m a smarter player,” she continued. “I’ve kind of grown in every realm, which is what I would hope, and hopefully I can use that to help the team.”
After coming off the bench in the opening 3-0 victory over Vietnam — her first action for club or country since tweaking her knee more than three months ago — Lavelle will again start on the bench against the Netherlands Wednedsay. She said after the first match that she was capable of going all 90 minutes if Andonovski needs her to.
“Rose is fine, and I’m happy that she’s available for selection,” the coach said at a packed pre-match news conference.
However long she plays, what’s certain is Lavelle won’t be thinking about her breakout performance in France. Lavelle has already faced the Netherlands twice since then, scoring in a 2-0 friendly win on Dutch soil in 2020 and in the shootout when the Americans eliminated the Oranje from the Olympics on penalties the following summer.
Her most famous goal is now firmly in the past. There’s a new target in front of her, and the only objective she has Down Under is achieving it. The expectations, the pressure — all of that is secondary.
“That was four years ago,” she said of the last World Cup final. “It’s a fun memory.”
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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