With Mt. Abram in the background, teams take the field during the Western Mountain 7v7 soccer tournament on Friday in Strong. Dave Dyer/Kennebec Journal

STRONG — There was a buzz around the soccer fields at Mt. Abram High School during the Western Mountain 7v7 tournament last weekend.

Girls soccer teams from around the state were stretching, passing the ball around, getting ready for the weekend event, the 14th of its kind.

But one topic no one seemed to speak of was the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The event, which takes place every four years, has been dominated by the United States, which won in 2015 and 2019.

Those that have watched the world’s biggest women’s sports event admitted to having a struggle with keeping up.

“I didn’t know they were playing until (head coach Mike Herrick) said ‘Hey, they’re playing,’ and then I flipped on the TV,” said Skowhegan freshman Mya Atwood.

“I never really followed soccer (on TV),” Skowhegan senior Grace Greenlaw said. “I play it, and then I go home and go to bed. I get up every day, go play soccer and go to bed again. I wasn’t really interested in it until a short while ago. … First thing I noticed when I flipped it on was (one of the teams) going through formations and going, ‘Hey, we do something similar to that.'”


A Skowhegan player, left, dribbles down the field against a Mt. Abram defender during the Western Mountain 7v7 soccer tournament on Friday in Strong. Dave Dyer/Kennebec Journal

One popular struggle among players watching the World Cup has been the start times. This year’s tournament is based in Australia and New Zealand. When the U.S. played Portugal to a 0-0 tie on Tuesday, the game started at 3 a.m.

“A big part of watching soccer is watching it when it’s happening,” Gardiner sophomore Sophia Marrone said. “Watching it live is really special. Watching the highlights isn’t as fun, or watching the replay, because you already know what happened. It’s hard to stay up that late, especially being busy. So it’s a little bit inconvenient.”

“I’ve watched (the first two) U.S. games,” Rangeley freshman Natalie Alves said. “I’ve decided to not watch any of the other games because they are at horrendous times. New Zealand … why?”

The U.S. national team has had its struggles on the pitch as well. The team hasn’t won a match since a 3-0 victory over Vietnam on July 21. The Americans played to a 1-1 tie with the Netherlands on July 26 before their most recent tie with Portugal on Tuesday morning.

“I think they’ve been better in the past,” Marrone said. “It’s just different soccer that we play here in the U.S. than how they play in Europe. We play very fast and goal-oriented. Other countries pass more, which makes it a little more boring of a game. It’s more (ball possession). I think it’ll be interesting if they play a team like Spain.”

“I’m a little concerned with the way the points have been going,” Alves said. “I think (the Netherlands) game was really interesting, because (U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovsky) didn’t make any changes from the Vietnam game. A lot of players that I saw growing up, like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, haven’t been as prominent (in strategy).”

A player from Penobscot Valley (green) boots the ball in a game against Rangeley on Friday at the Western Mountain 7v7 tournament in Strong. Dave Dyer/Kennebec Journal

But other area players had different thoughts on the team and particularly the impact for female athletes.

“I think the USA is actually doing really well,” Mt. Abram junior Bailea Haines said. “(U.S. forward) Sophia Smith is great, and (forward) Alex Morgan is great. And (midfielder) Lindsey Horan, I love her.”

“(The U.S. National Team’s impact) is a lot,” said Leavitt sophomore Hailey Greenlaw. “Premier League as well. Just watching them and seeing what they do, seeing how much of an impact they have on people in general is very exciting. Just watching them gets me excited for going out here (Friday) and gets me ready to go and get some goals and get some passes in.”

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