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Becky Sauerbrunn and the stumbling of giants

Sauerbrunn is who she has always been: A giant of the game who will do whatever it takes to win.

England v USA: Semi Final - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Jose Breton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Becky Sauerbrunn has been good this World Cup. She has not been bad; she has not cost the U.S. a win as they haven’t lost a match, and she has not looked like a fool on the pitch. I want to get that out of the way before we go any farther.

All of the players on the USWNT are under a microscope. They have coverage on them at all times, but in the World Cup, it becomes almost comical the level of coverage these 23 players have on them. Alex Morgan sips tea, and it becomes an international incident. Lindsey Horan is excited post game, and it’s “disrespectful” to the English players who have to do media down the tunnel. Megan Rapinoe hits four goals in two games and is disrespectful for posing after a goal.

The levels we take everything that happens for these five weeks is beyond normal and natural.

So when we have come to expect Becky Sauerbrunn to be more than great, we don’t know how to handle her being simply good. We have come to expect her to be the best defender on both this earth and all other possible earths. We expect greatness from her because that is what she has given us for so long.

So now when she stumbles, it just a little and just for a moment, it feels somehow all the more scary. When she is unnerved, we become almost hysterical at the very thought Sauerbrunn could be shaken at all on the pitch.

Sauerbrunn has some shortcomings as a player, and chief amount them is she is not fast. She has never been fast, and time has only made her a step slower.

For Utah Royals FC, Laura Harvey has managed this by giving her a center back partner in Rachel Corsie who complements her style. Sauerbrunn sits back and organizes while Corsie rushes forward when needed. Having O’Hara or Moros on one side only helps Sauerbrunn as both of them are often fast enough to get back to make their coverage and seasoned as defenders.

Jill Ellis has gone a different way, a way that often leaves Sauerbrunn to cover more of the field and having to do it with less help. And because of this, even if the number of mistakes ranging from small to “make contact with a player in the box and give them a PK that could tie a World Cup semi” big end up changing up with Sauerbrunn, having us all question if we’re allowed to have anything good in this miserable world.

I do not believe it is unfair to say that Becky Sauerbrunn is the best center back the U.S. has ever produced. She is better at her prime than Carla Overbeck or Christie Pearce at theirs. She has a club record that matches her talents on the international stage to boot.

Father Time has taken a half second off of her reaction times and a half step from her runs. He has made her look more mortal than any of us have seen her in a very long time. And yet at the core, she still knows how to run a backline, to direct defenders around her, and to step in and tackle at just the right moment to break up a dangerous play.

This might be the very last World Cup we see Sauerbrunn play in. She is ultimately who she has always been: A hard-working, hard nose player who would do just about anything to make sure her team comes out on time. She might stumble now, but she has never fallen, and that is a legacy you can roll your sleeves up for.