USWNT: Abby Wambach Saves U.S. from Sub-par Game

July 13, 2011

On a day when the United States was out possessed, out shot and, to be frank, for long stretches, out played, Abby Wambach once again stepped up to drag the American team into the World Cup Final.

Many of the American players did not have very good games. Amy Rodriguez was once again ineffective and the normally solid Ali Krieger had several shaky moments giving away possession deep in the American end. Even Hope Solo, the hero of Sunday’s game against Brazil and the world’s best goalkeeper, had a couple of nervy moments including at one point kicking a backpass directly to a French player at the top of the American 18-yard box.

The only change to the starting 11 today was the slotting in of Becky Sauerbrunn for the suspended Rachel Buehler. Even though Sauerbrunn plays her club soccer with both goalkeeper Hope Solo and her partner in central defense Christie Rampone, Sauerbrunn looked shaky at several times throughout the game. Sauerbrunn continually dropped behind Rampone instead of holding her line which allowed French attackers to get into deep attacking positions. The normally crisp central defending from America’s earlier games looked missing. Sauerbrunn also looked to be at fault for France’s lone goal of the game letting her mark get in behind.

Despite the victory, American coach Pia Sundhage could, once again, be questioned. The continued starts of Amy Rodriguez seem undeserved. The seemingly obvious choice to replace her would be Alex Morgan. Morgan, who came on for Rodriguez once France equalized, had a very composed finish to put the game away in the 82nd minute. However, she was very lucky to get in behind on that play as the ball bounced off a French defender right to her. Morgan also, in a play that was blown offsides after the fact, missed a sitter from 3 yards out in the 69th minute.

Personally I would like to see Lauren Cheney up top for Rodriguez. Cheney is a natural forward who not only scored the opener in today’s game flying in from the right side to get on Heather O’Reilly’s service, but Cheney also had the all-important opener for the U.S. in the North Korea game. She is a natural finisher and could easily slot in up top with Wambach which would allow Megan Rapinoe to start at the outside midfield position.

Lori Lindsey was also again an unused substitute. Although normal central midfield choices Shannon Boxx and Carli Lloyd have continued to be solid, they appeared at times to be outplayed, or outworked. In today’s game, Sundhage elected to replace Lloyd, but did it with Rapinoe and moved Cheney to the central midfield. Granted, the Americans did have one less day of rest than the French after the American’s 120 minute titanic battle with Brazil, but Lindsey looked sharp in her group stage appearance earlier in the tournament.

In the end, the subpar play of the team and coaching decisions mattered little because Wambach would not let the U.S. lose. Moments after going down in the box on what initially looked like it should have been a penalty, Wambach put the Americans ahead on a superbly finished header at the back post and the Americans rode that momentum into the finals.

There has been a clear look of determination to Wambach in this tournament both in her words and actions. Always one of the hardest working and most physical players on the pitch, in the last three games she has been resolute in adding a World Cup gold medal to her already impressive collection of honors. She has already stated that her career would be incomplete without a World Cup championship and at 31, this is probably her last chance. Earlier in the tournament she was asked why she played in the Sweden game with an Achilles tendon strain despite the fact that the Americans had already qualified for the knockout round. Wambach responded, “I’m going to play 90 minutes every game… It’s just about pain and this is the World Cup.” Words of a champion.

John D. Halloran

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One Response to USWNT: Abby Wambach Saves U.S. from Sub-par Game

  1. DE Dupuis on July 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Mostly agree. Thought Sauerbrunn did pretty well considering the near constant pressure. Holly cow did the USA do a lot of defending in that game. Morgan, great finish, otherwise ???!!??? Arod ??!!!?? To my eye Rapinoe was the best US player against Brazil, and still didn’t start against France, and was the best US player against France when she got on (who got the ball to Morgan?) – what does she have to do to start? Her cross to Wambach made that great goal, the cross was perfect, from a mile out, and with her left foot – completely brilliant and Wambach gets all the credit, go figure (and this is from a striker). And then there’s the Cox and Ohara substitutions. I think Pia deserves credit for the grit and spirit and is allowing the team to win, because it sure isn’t the quality of their football. However, I think Pia also deserves the credit for a team that is technically second best against almost everyone, and often seems disorganized and scrambling. I think we can do better. I know we will have to do better no matter what happens on Sunday.

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