It was a family affair in more ways than one at the National Harbor as fans gathered at the Maryland waterfront to watch their team win the World Cup.
There were children with their parents and grandparents, and even one yet-to-be-born fan, whose name is going to carry a reminder of the USA victory.
“So if it’s a girl, we’re calling her Alex Morgan – first name Alexandra, middle name Morgan,” says Michelle Montesdeoca, watching the final with husband Felix and children Natalie, 11, and eight-year-old Jayden – all four of them bearing shirts with Morgan’s name and number 13 on the back.
“The baby’s due at Christmas. I’m a big, big fan. I feel she’s someone who’s good for kids to look up to. She’s doing well for herself and represents the country well – she’s a good teammate and she’s very passionate.”
“It’s great there’s this much interest every four years,” adds Felix, looking around at the hundreds of people who’d come to watch the big screen. “But it would be great if it was like this every year.”
Fans had decked themselves out in the most patriotic outfits they could find, with stars and stripe sunglasses, t-shirts, shorts and towels everywhere you looked.
The mini Star Spangled banners being handed out ended up serving a dual purpose, with people fanning themselves to keep cool in the lunchtime humidity, despite the clouds that hung overhead.
“We’ve three soccer players here,” said proud soccer dad John Calacan, of daughters Selah, 15, Aniah, 13, and Nevaeh, 11 (wearing a wrist support after sustaining a goalkeeping-related injury). “So hopefully at some point in time, we’ll have them up there playing for the USA.
“It’s so important for them to have these women as role models. It’s more than just how they conduct themselves on the field, it’s their integrity and how sporting they are. Well, apart from maybe when Alex Morgan did the cup of tea thing, but that was just on the spur of the moment.”
Young girls wore shirts bearing the names of their footballing heroes, and behind the seats, two boys had set up a net to play a game.
For a while, it was the only goal scoring going on, with the crowds – used to seeing their team win – getting slightly tense during the first half.
When the Netherlands saved an attempt on goal in the 28th minute, it was the first time they had a chance to really get vocal, their oohs and ahhs mimicking the reaction to the 4 July fireworks earlier this week.
While there was a smattering of applause at halftime, it wasn’t until Megan Rapinoe’s penalty that the fans finally breathed out, with a palpable sense of relief.
Watching from the front row was Melissa Enriquez with friend Lorena Rojas and her son Lucas, 18 months today, who happily ran up and down in front of the screen, enthusiastically waving a flag during the first half, sleeping off his exertions in the second.
“It feels like everyone has come from the North Virginia area, Maryland and DC – this game really brings everyone together,” said Melissa. “It’s super important to support the women’s team. I feel people still focus on the men too much, but it’s great to have kids look up to them.”
Two of those kids – one girl dressed as a princess, and a boy in a Spiderman hat – had been among the children more interested in playing in the sand at the waterfront for most of the game, but the roars from the goals drew them up the steps to watch the action.
Stacie Weigle, watching with husband Kiley and 17-year-old Nathan – who was dressed head-to-toe in the US flag – commented: “These women show girls they can be strong and athletic – you don’t have to be a little princess all the time, you can be sporty as well.”
One of the few people wearing orange for the Netherlands was Amanda Yanchus, there with seven-year-old daughter Virginia – though she had a USA shirt on.
“I was surprised to see I’m about the only one wearing a Dutch shirt,” laughed Amanda. “I like to represent my Dutch heritage and I’ve always been a fan of the Netherlands team. The US has a great side as well, but I wish they’d tone down some of the celebrations. They’re not as ugly as some from the men’s teams though.”
Everyone was up on their feet cheering as the final whistle blew, Amanda included.
Taleen Khleifat, 20, held aloft a flag with two of her friends. “It was a great win, I’m so happy! I love being able to come down here and see so many people come together and watch our women.”
Alexandra Warrington had perhaps more reason to celebrate than some, as she works for the Washington Spirit football team, alongside scorer of the second goal, Rose Lavelle.
“I came here for years ago for their win and sat in exactly the same spot.” she said. “This environment is so great. Everyone is so involved in the women’s game.”
And as for that goal?
“We’re in a group message at work,” she smiled. “We were all on it, so excited that she’d scored. All of us know how much it means for her, and especially to help them win the game.
“These women just don’t get the credit they should, and I really hope that’s about to change and that they get the respect they deserve.”
No doubt she, and hundreds of others, will be back at National Harbor in another four years to see the team defend the title – hoping that by then, they will have that extra respect they want to see given to the women’s game.