Why one American veteran is rooting for the Netherlands — for one day — at the Women's World Cup
LYON, France – It takes a lot for an American serviceman who has seen action in Afghanistan to root against the United States at anything, but Brandon Bloodworth has the best excuse in the world. Or, in this case, in the Women’s World Cup.
“I am just a man trying to support his wife,” Bloodworth, 24, told me in a telephone conversation on Thursday. “Happy wife, happy life.”
A former track athlete at Long Beach State, Bloodworth is married to standout Netherlands defender Dominique Bloodworth (née Janssen), who will be tasked with stifling the high-powered American attack led by Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe in Sunday’s final.
For the U.S., it is a chance to win a second straight title. For the Dutch, it is the opportunity to continue the rapid rise of a program that is competing in women’s soccer’s premier tournament for only the second time. For Bloodworth, it is both the perfect scenario, and a gut-wrenching one.
“Ever since the start of the tournament, I have kind of been dreading this outcome,” he laughed. “Now it is here. I don’t want anyone to see me in orange and cheering for the Dutch and thinking I’m a traitor. This is the only thing I would ever put in front of my country. Dominique has given me so much; I just want her to complete her dream.”
He got to enjoy this Fourth of July in the charming French city of Lyon, visiting Dominique at the Dutch team hotel the day after the team’s nail-biting extra-time semifinal win against Sweden.
The relaxed surrounds of central France are a far cry from where he spent the final seven months of his military career. Bloodworth was based in the Afghan district of Bagram – nicknamed Rocket City – where his base was mortared 42 times in a month.
By that time, in 2017, he and Dominique were already a couple of years into their relationship. She was playing for Arsenal in England’s Women’s Super League, and he planned to marry her when he got back.
If he got back.
“Every time I heard a bomb go off, I was like, ‘My life has the potential to be amazing, or it can be over in a second,’” he added. Meanwhile, Dominique would send him care packages, video games and Dutch candies and best of all, each month a new page of a calendar filled with photographs of the two of them.
Once he returned, a new adventure began – and continues. The pair married in 2018 and next season Dominique will join German team and four-time Champions League finalist Wolfsburg, while Brandon embarks on training for a new career as a dentist.
But … first things first, the small matter of a World Cup final.
“We already said beforehand ‘What if this is going to happen?’ and it actually happened,” Dominique told me in the interview area following the semifinal. “This is so very special for me and my husband so we are all really looking forward to it. I know my husband is secretly cheering for us so that is something I really appreciate.”
The Netherlands are the underdogs, but don’t expect them to be overawed by the Americans. “In our team there is not much fear,” she added.
The Bloodworths’ sweet and endearing love story began in 2016 when Brandon and a friend were completing a tour of duty in Jordan and planning to vacation in London. Wanting to avoid tourist overload, Brandon reached out to people and groups of actual London residents online. Dominique was one of the people he began talking to, but she did not reveal that she was a pro soccer player.
Not that it would have mattered much, as Brandon did not grow up with the game and knew virtually nothing about it. As the pair chatted more and became close, he tried to set up a date, but was puzzled as to why she was not available on weekends.
“I thought she was a bartender or something,” he said.
Eventually his friend looked her up and discovered she played for Arsenal. “What’s Arsenal?” Brandon responded.
On their first date, he asked her to be his girlfriend. She said no.
But he got a second date, and then fate intervened. A few weeks later, the Dutch team played a friendly international against the U.S. in Atlanta, just a four-hour ride from where Brandon was stationed in South Carolina. He made the drive, and they have been together since, despite some enforced absences due to the Afghanistan tour and her soccer commitments.
“It sounds kind of weird, but being a pro football player is similar to the military,” Brandon said. “You wear a uniform, you are very committed to something bigger than yourself, you represent your country and if they tell you that you got to go somewhere, you got to go.
“She did everything she could to support me when I was at war. So I am so grateful that now I get to support her. That’s why I am cheering for her instead of my country.”