By Ashley Scoby
For one night, Ford Field got rid of the music bursting through the speakers, the “De-fense” beat being filtered through the sound system and the Honolulu blue hue of the crowd. For 90 minutes, it was just soccer, without the artificial noise, and the fans who loved the sport.
Thursday marked the largest crowd to ever watch a soccer game at Ford Field, as 34,538 poured in to watch the World Cup-winning women’s national team roll over Haiti, 5-0. It was the first time the team had played in a dome since the final World Cup match against Japan in Vancouver.
“It was really loud and I think the echo helped that,” said Christen Press, who scored one of the U.S.’s five goals. “I think a lot of our fans are super passionate, but the people out there were great to us. It wasn’t just like, ‘Oh, let’s go see the women’s national team.’ They were just so excited to be there and we feed off that energy.”
Fans in Detroit were initially disappointed when the USWNT’s original opponent for Thursday, Australia, decided to boycott the match because of a labor dispute. But the 34,538 in attendance still got what they came for.
There was Carli Lloyd magic, as she completed her fourth career hat trick – two expertly-placed headers and one penalty kick shoved past Haitian goalkeeper Ednie Limage, who performed admirably amid a barrage of 36 U.S. shots, 13 of them on goal.
Fans got a look at who could be the next rising star in women’s soccer, in Crystal Dunn. She was a late cut from the World Cup roster but got called up for the victory tour and tallied two assists and a goal of her own, off a header in the 93rd minute – her first for the national team. Down the road, if the soccer community is asked to point to the moment when Dunn really splashed into the national spotlight, they might just point to Detroit.
There was an Alex Morgan backheel thrown in there, a raucously-cheered Abby Wambach substitution and a general party atmosphere around a team that really hasn’t stopped celebrating since they took home the World Cup trophy this summer.
Only a few fans started trickling out in the final minutes, even though the match had been decided even before halftime, when the U.S. led 3-0. These fans, who do not have a major professional soccer team to cheer for in the city, had no interest in beating the traffic, as they hung over the railing with jerseys and sharpies hoping to grab an autograph.
Several Lions even showed up to the match, including Eric Ebron and Ziggy Ansah, who asked for a picture with Wambach before she left the field.
“Detroit brought the heat today,” Wambach said. “There were 34-plus thousand people here. It’s just amazing to see how much growth this sport has had over the course of my career.”