By unleashing Rose Lavelle, USWNT hints at future — and it pays off in a World Cup title

LYON, France – Jill Ellis’ toughest choices ahead of this World Cup revolved around whether to pick players for now or players for the future. In Rose Lavelle, she got both.

Lavelle capped off her breakout tournament in a fashion she could hardly have imagined. Her speedy forward run and fierce left-foot strike in the second half effectively clinched the United States the title – Netherlands never looked like it could overhaul a 2-0 deficit, and didn’t.

When it came time for the event’s individual accolades to be doled out, Lavelle ended up with the Bronze Ball, afforded to the third-best player of the tournament, behind teammate Megan Rapinoe and England’s Lucy Bronze.

Lavelle is 24 years old but looks younger and is the smallest and slightest member of the roster. But she’s a gamechanger and one the Americans have come to rely upon. She’s not the finished product, and still makes some mistakes in possession, but she is capable of breaking down a defense with her smarts and swift feet in a way no other player on the team can.

“I agree that she is for now and for the future,” defender Becky Sauerbrunn told me. “I can’t speak highly enough of Rose, on and off the field. She is just able to do things that not a lot of women’s soccer players are able to. She can get herself out of really crazy pressure, she can create space and with that beautiful left foot, she can really hit some bombs. The national team is in good hands with her on it.”

Outside of Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, the squad isn’t filled with household names but the free-flowing, enterprising way Lavelle plays may give her a chance to join those crossover ranks in the future.

The U.S. program has been built on consistency and benefitted from some players whose careers have enjoyed extreme longevity. Yet with 12 players on the roster 30 or older, you need fresh blood sooner or later, especially if there is to be no noticeable drop off in productivity. Lavelle brought an energy and variety to this squad that proved pivotal.

“This group is so deep and so amazing and then we just filter through these new little superstars like Rose every now and again,” Rapinoe said. “First World Cup, that is incredible. Absolutely insane.”

Lavelle is interesting and quirky, with a dry and goofy sense of humor that endears her to her teammates. However, her ability is no laughing matter. She starred against England in the semifinal and was even better on Sunday.

“I feel like I gained a lot of experience and the players around me worked really hard to make me look good,” Lavelle said. “It is easy to perform when you have people like that alongside you.

“The mentality of this team is that everyone has each other’s back. Whether you are having a good game or an awful game you know that someone is going to be running back, or covering for you after a mistake, and when you have that kind of support it makes you extra confident.”

Lavelle was followed in France by a small collection of friends and family, led by her father Marty and mother Janet, who have proven to be among the most popular members of the American traveling support brigade.

Marty Lavelle enjoys a social beer, a game of foosball and the opportunity, in the most heartwarming fatherly-pride kind of way, to tell people how darned good his daughter is. Over a beer at a Lyon hotel this week, he told a journalist he didn’t think there was another player in women’s soccer who had the skills and ability of his daughter.

It is the kind of thing that dads say (right?) because they are supposed to– and in some cases, you’d just put it down to that.

Except that with the Lavelles and their newly-crowned world champion daughter, if it’s not true already, it’s certainly heading in that direction.