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US women's national soccer team criticized for celebrating during 13-0 World Cup win

Some claimed Team USA showed a lack of class for celebrating goals deep into its 13-0 rout of Thailand.
Players from the U.S. national women's team celebrate during their opening match against Thailand on Tuesday in Reims, France.Lionel Bonaventure / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The United States women's national soccer team has gone from being on the offensive to being on the defensive.

The U.S. team routed Thailand 13-0 in the opening round of World Cup play in France Tuesday, but it's now dealing with criticism that it ran up the score and celebrated too much once the match got out of hand.

Megan Rapinoe, left, and Lindsey Horan celebrate in the first half of the U.S. team's 13-0 rout of Thailand. Alessandra Tarantino / AP

Star striker Alex Morgan scored five goals as the team, which was up 3-0 at halftime, enjoyed the biggest margin of victory in men's and women's World Cup history.

But even though goal tallies matter in the group stage, some critics were quick to pounce on the team, which is heavily favored to defend its World Cup title. Thailand's team is ranked No. 34 in the world.

"The USWNT displayed poor sportsmanship excessively celebrating many of the 13 goals against a 34th ranked team," wrote Clare Rustad, a Canadian analyst who also played for that country's national team.

"It has nothing to do with the final score. You are one of the best teams in the world. Act like it. And yeah, I definitely would have said the same about a men's team."

Former U.S. men's national team member Taylor Twellman said he didn't have a problem with the score, but the celebrations left "a sour taste in my mouth."

"Curious to see if anyone apologizes for this postgame," he tweeted.

Another critic wrote, "The only criticism I have about the #USWNT and the 13-0 score, is some of the later goals were celebrated too . After it's 6-0 you stop doing choreographed dances and such."

Despite the backlash, U.S. coach Jill Ellis stood by her team.

"A lot of this is about building momentum and so as a coach I don't find it my job to rein my players in," Ellis told The Wall Street Journal. "This is what they've dreamt about. I respect Thailand, I spoke to some of them afterward and they should keep their heads up. This is part of the growth of the game."

"We knew that every goal could matter in this group stage game and when it comes to celebrations this was a really good team performance and I think it was important for us to celebrate together," Morgan told CNN.

Several others saw no problem with how the U.S. played.

"For all that have issue with many goals: for some players this is there first World Cup goal, and they should be excited," retired U.S. soccer team star Abby Wambach wrote. "Imagine it being you out there.This is your dream of playing and then scoring in a World Cup. Celebrate. Would you tell a men's team to not score or celebrate?"

One person even pointed out that the team went out of its way to console the Thai squad after the game.

"So many people calling the US Women classless because they celebrated their goals. How about Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd going over to comfort some of the Thailand players immediately after the final whistle? That's class," someone else wrote.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King also saw no problem with what happened.

"Every goal matters when the goal differential is the tiebreaker in group play. Athletes should always play to their skill level. Full stop," she wrote.

Former U.S. men's national team star Alexi Lalas also thought the Americans acted appropriately when asked if the team unnecessarily ran up the score.

"No. Not the #USWNT's problem or responsibility. This is the WC. The U.S. is there to win, not to make friends," he wrote.

The U.S. team will attempt to put the controversy aside Sunday when it returns to the pitch for its second match of the tournament against Chile, the 29th-ranked team in the world.