Nagamine basks in World Cup glory

The view from Michele Nagamine's seats for Team USA's win over Japan in the Women's World Cup final.  (Photo courtesy Michele Nagamine)
The view from Michele Nagamine’s seats for Team USA’s win over Japan in the Women’s World Cup final.
(Photo courtesy Michele Nagamine)

At some point all the chanting and the cheering blended seamlessly into euphoria, and ultimately winning.

The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup was an experience Michele Nagamine will never forget. The Hawaii soccer coach decided to take a trip up to Canada with a few friends for the duration of the knockout stage of the Cup — hoping but not knowing that Team USA would make a thrilling run to its third title, and first since 1999.

Of course, things worked out in the best possible way for Team USA, which defeated Japan 5-2 on Sunday thanks largely to a hat trick by Carli Lloyd.

Nagamine, who was seated on the side where the U.S. scored four goals in the first 16 minutes in stunning fashion, was still riding high in Vancouver on Monday prior to returning to the islands.

“I wasn’t lucky enough to be there when Brandi Chastain scored that winning kick in ’99,” Nagamine said during a phone interview. “I was watching it on TV. That moment was so surreal for me because she was such a good friend of mine from college (teammates at Santa Clara) and I just felt everything that she was feeling. Kind of living vicariously through her through everything, and that was pretty special.

“But to be here and to follow the team from the first-round games all the way through, soccer-wise this has got to be one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. It was just such a great trip. The opportunity to learn from some of the great soccer brains here, watching games, attending talks, it was so unbelievable for me. I really needed it because spring (training) was long, the recruiting grind is on. I’ll be home for 10 days and then I travel again to recruit for the last couple weeks of July. So this was kind of a rejuvenation trip for me. It’s got me really pumped up and excited. Especially looking to build some leadership in our team and selling a very young team on a vision. To be able to tell them, ‘Hey, look at what they did. Don’t count anybody out.’ ”

Nagamine’s group followed Team USA from Edmonton, where they beat Colombia in the round of 16, to Ottawa, where the U.S. knocked off China. Then it was onto Montreal, where coach Jill Ellis’ group beat world No. 1 Germany 2-0.

Finally, they made it to Vancouver.

Before the championship match, they met up with the American Outlaws, a diehard group of soccer fans. They marched down the street en masse to the 60,000-seat BC Place Stadium Vancouver.

“It was completely electric,” Nagamine said. “Everywhere you went. (It) might as well have been a home game for (us).”

Nagamine with Missy Moore at the World Cup championship.  (Photo courtesy Nagamine)
Nagamine with Missy Moore at the World Cup championship.
(Photo courtesy Nagamine)

“It was amazing. We got the tickets and we walk into the stadium like, ‘Oh my God. These are epic seats.’ We watched Japan warm up right in front of us. And then of course, the USA gets the ball and within the first few minutes we’re like, ‘AAAAAHHHHH!’ Everybody was just freaking out. And the momentum. I mean, I have never, ever experienced anything like that. That was so crazy. And that Carli Lloyd 50-yard shot? I mean, come on, that was just, that was amazing. It was so surreal. After the game, when they’re doing the (trophy) presentation, everybody’s just crying. It’s just so emotional to know what the team went through, all the adversity and controversy of, ‘Ooh, they’re not playing their best.’ Getting ripped on on TV by commentators and in the blogs. I think it was really good that the team kind of kept themselves in a bubble. Be calm, let’s just focus. I think that’s awesome.”

She said she will use that run by Team USA to demonstrate to her Rainbow Wahine players what can be done when selflessness is embraced.

“For me, it really goes to show what the mind and emotion can do. We may not have had a lot of experience in the lineup, but the unselfishness that you saw from this team … you don’t think that Shannon Boxx, Christie Rampone and Abby Wambach, stars of the team making the most money, lots and lots of money — more than some of these kids — you think that they don’t want to go in? You don’t think Sydney Leroux was pissed off when they put her in for like 2 minutes, one of those tactical subbings? But they just cared so much about the goal at heart and at hand that they just let the egos go. I mean, what would have happened in the NFL if you benched your best wide receiver?” She laughed. “I don’t know. I think sometimes when you have that kind of star power, swallowing that, I’m over my pride, it is a hard pill to swallow. But you know, Abby’s the first one up there leading everybody in a cheer after the game.”

Based on the communication with her UH players during the tournament, Nagamine came away impressed with their dedication to watching and following each match. She noted junior Storm Kenui was a particular diehard.

“It’s nice to know that kids born and raised in Hawaii are becoming savvy to follow things on their own without having to be told,” Nagamine said. “They fully had all their DVRs programmed and sometimes some of the kids were like, ‘I have to work, so nobody tell me, nobody text me what’s happening.’ So they took it pretty seriously; I’m very proud of them.”

Side note: Team USA players Christen Press and Kelley O’Hara each scored two goals for Stanford in the Cardinal’s 6-2 win over UH at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium in 2009. Pinsoom Tenzing was UH coach; Nagamine took over in 2011.


  1. H-man July 8, 2015 3:56 am

    Nice story.

  2. H-man July 8, 2015 4:07 am

    I’m not a soccer fan, but I watched the U.S. – Japan match (also the U.S. – Germany match). Just unbelievable. 4 goals in 16 minutes; the first in, was it 2 minutes. And that mid-field goal dropped my jaw. I didn’t know it was possible. It was U.S.’s destiny to win. All the pieces were falling in place, as if by preordained script. Fabulous win.

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