PARIS – The final score read 3-0 in favor of the United States women’s national team, but it didn’t tell the whole story of Sunday afternoon at Parc des Princes.
Chile goalkeeper Christiane Endler was named Player of the Match for a standout performance in which she acrobatically batted away chance after USA chance and set a new standard for the expression cat-like reflexes.
Endler, who plays club soccer less than six miles away for Paris Saint-Germain and attended the University of South Florida in Tampa from 2012-14, finished the game with six saves. Most of those came during a second half in which she held the Americans scoreless.
Chile is still winless at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and heads into its final Group F game against Thailand with slim hope of advancing to the knockout round, but Endler’s performance offered a sign her country’s future could be bright.
“It’s difficult, because we lost the game even though I’m also happy to be presented as Player of the Match,” Endler said during the postgame news conference. “I’m very happy to get this award, but this is not what we wanted.”
The Football Federation of Chile has only recently started making basic investments into women’s soccer, so progress for La Roja, who are competing in their first Women’s World Cup, has been slow.
The Chileans showed promise in their tournament opener by holding Sweden scoreless for 83 minutes of an eventual 2-0 loss. Then Endler drew applause from a U.S.-friendly crowd Sunday after conceding a trio of first-half goals – two to Carli Lloyd and one to Julie Ertz.
The U.S., which showed no mercy during its 13-0 victory against Thailand last week, seemed primed to go for the kill again as it ramped up the pressure against Chile in front of 45,594 in Paris. Chances came intermittently between the 55th and 81st minutes. The Americans pressed high in the attacking third, using Lloyd as the playmaker in an aggressive 4-3-3 formation.
First, Endler stuffed Lindsey Horan, sent through on a breakaway by Christian Press. Four minutes later, Endler batted away Press’ volley from just inside the penalty area by jumping right to palm the drive out of play.
Next, Jessica McDonald had a go.
She blasted on frame from inside the box after receiving a feed from Lloyd. Endler pushed the effort over the bar.
Press tried again – this time with an unmarked diving header near the 6-yard box – but Endler leapt right, expanding like a falcon flexing its full wingspan, to knock the ball out of the net’s path.
“How on Earth did you save that?” was one of the questions Endler answered after the game.
“I’ve been preparing for this tournament in the best way I can, not only physically, but mentally as well,” she said. “But I’ve been working on plays like that with our goalkeeper coach. It’s all about leaping to make the save, even if you think you have no chance of making the stop. Personally, I like it when the ball comes at me fast and often. I like the spotlight and the excitement.”
Endler, 27, is Chile’s captain and arguably the country’s most high-profile player.
But she’s also a star on a team of players so neglected they recently went unpaid, trained on concrete, wore the men’s national team’s old uniforms and faced numerous other forms of sexism and exclusion.
Now, they’re at the World Cup in France and fighting, with a small-yet-existent chance of reaching the knockout round as one of the tournament’s top four third-place group finishers.
If Chile does advance, it likely will be due in no small part to the intrepid leader in net.
“Endler was fantastic,” U.S. head coach Jill Ellis said after Sunday’s game. “We knew that in terms of scouting her, and we’ve played her before, but [she was] spectacular. World-class goalkeeper. One of the best shot-stoppers I’ve ever seen.
“Total credit to Chile: their spirit is magnificent and that goalkeeper – Endler – will always keep that team in the mix.”