REVENGE WAS always the easy narrative for the United States at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.

When the tournament started a month ago, Team USA had no guarantee that it would make the final, much less face Japan, the team that beat it for the title four years ago.

With powerhouse teams like Germany, France, Brazil and Sweden in the field, a rematch of the 2011 final was not something many would have counted on.

Ultimately, however, there can be no revenge for losing a World Cup championship game. History will always say that Japan defeated the United States and won the 2011 world title - nothing changes that.

This wasn't about revenge or redemption or even respect.

The only driving force behind this USA Team was reward - reward for a lifetime of work and dedication and commitment to achieve a dream of being the best at what you do.

"People say we need this World Cup for a lot of reasons," USA midfielder Lauren Holiday said a week before the team made its sojourn to Canada. "But personally, for this team, we need to win this World Cup because this is what we've been working our tails off for.

"This is what we've sacrificed and dedicated our lives to is to win this World Cup. There is a ton of pressure on this team and there will always be a ton of pressure. That's the world we live in. We do have to perform. We do have to succeed."

Last night, they did it and did it with an exclamation point.

Playing in front of more than 53,000 mostly American fans at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, including Joe and Jill Biden, the United States was an unstoppable force as it dismantled Japan, 5-2.

Not only did the USA end its 16-year World Cup drought by winning its first title since the historic 1999 team, but it also became the first nation to win a third Women's World Cup.

This was the most dominant performance in a women's final.

The United States elevated its play to a level that Japan, a team that had won every game leading into the final, simply could not contend with.

The game was literally decided in the first 16 minutes when Delran native and USA captain Carli Lloyd recorded the first hat trick in Women's World Cup history.

When Lloyd scored what may go down as the greatest goal ever in the Women's World Cup - a shot from midfield that stunned Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori as it sailed over her head - the United States led 4-0 and then it was just a matter of waiting out 74 minutes plus some stoppage time to celebrate.

"Carli Lloyd was just a beast," USA coach Jill Ellis said during a television interview. "She set the tone for everything from the beginning."

Lloyd, who scored six goals in the last four games, won the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament.

Although she tied Germany's Celia Sasic with six goals, Lloyd lost the Golden Boot Award as the top scorer via a tiebreaker, which was fewer minutes played.

"Speechless," said Lloyd, who turned the captain's armband over to Abby Wambach when the USA legend subbed into her final World Cup match. "I am so unbelievably proud of every person on this team.

"We just made history. We had a game plan We started a bit slow but we finished stronger than ever, and that's the most important thing.

"For me personally, my career has been a long journey. I've dedicated my whole life to this. Everything else came second and I wouldn't have it any other way. We made history."

We love a narrative, and there are plenty that will come out of this World Cup victory.

There is the story of Lloyd, Wambach, defender Shannon Boxx and goalie Hope Solo finally becoming world champions in what may likely be their last World Cup.

There is the saga of players like Holiday, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger, who are the first generation of American kids inspired by the 1999 team to reach the senior team level and who will lead it into the future.

But ultimately, this is a tale of 23 women who came together in a certain moment in time and took advantage of any opportunity to make their dreams come true.

"This is surreal," said Wambach, the all-time leading scorer in international soccer who finally added the last piece to complete her legendary resume. "This is insane.

"I can't believe we are able to be called world champions. I can leave. Whether I choose to or not, it doesn't matter. I can leave because I've got it."

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL