Narratives and Quarterfinals Upcoming For the USWNTMeeting and beating trials, and former foes, come to a head for the USWNT
by Katherine Rupp | Wednesday, June 24, 2015
The US women’s national team keeps rolling, albeit not often with the same amount of vigor that the narrative seems to be written, through to the Quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup. That aforementioned narrative is to have the superstars of the US – Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Hope Solo – carry the Yanks to the Finals and to win in Canada, our neighbors to the north.
However, with the round of 16 game come and gone with another US win – this one against Colombia (whose team members were doing quite a bit of smack talking about the mighty US team) – there are some cracks that can be seen in the US wall, but also there are strong points to note that could lead to a run into the Final.
Coach Jill Ellis, although much better suited than former coach Tom Sermanni – who is now an assistant with the Canadian women – she still looks to have some questionable tactics and deployments of the starting eleven women on the pitch. Additionally, some of the substitutions made have also been surprising, but ultimately – which is good for Ellis – those subs have more often than not, worked out.
In previous years, and even during the days from when Sweden coach, Pia Sundhage, was the manager of the US women’s team, did the team seem to meld. However, those days are gone and there is a strong new crop of roster players including Julie Johnston and Morgan Brian.
But where does Abby Wambach fit in with the young guns on this squad? It seems like…nobody is quite sure. And if they are sure, it may be hard to own up to the conclusion. The 35-year old superstar, and quite possibly the most well-known woman on the current team, has not looked like the Abby Wambach of yore. Maybe because she took time off from the NWSL season to focus on the World Cup or maybe it is because the turf or maybe it’s because her prime years are behind her, other players are needing to step up to the pitch this year because of the lack of firepower in Wambach’s boot.
However, even with Wambach’s play not as in her prime as in the past, one player who is seemingly making a name for herself is Megan Rapinoe. Although the midfielder hasn’t been able to play in her correct position much this tournament – similar to Tobin Heath, Lauren Holiday, and Carli Lloyd – she’s been able to make the most of the situation at hand and correct the direction of the USWNT ship more in the way that the women should be going.
Even with the annoyances from the starting positions and substitutes that Jill Ellis has used, and with the not-the-most-inspired play from Abby Wambach, the US women will play China – a rematch of the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final – to hopefully, a sound win. With the uptick in play, even through some of the aforementioned adversity, the US women look to stick to the narrative of making the Final, and winning the World Cup, for the first time in more than a decade.
Before heading into the US Women’s National Team game against Nigeria, it was almost a free-for-all. Who would start? When would the substitutes come in? Would there be much of an attacking force than previous games? Much like the Men’s National Team games, there seems to be some cohesion of attacking forces but the end product isn’t there. However, in the game against Nigeria for the US Women, the play was better and more concise with more precise passing and smarter link-up play.
Although a lot can be said about Abby Wambach, with her starting, on the bench, or coming in as a substitute, but she certainly isn’t done with her career as a women’s professional soccer player on a club team or for the National team. With Wambach scoring in the Nigeria match of the Women’s World Cup, the United States is prime for a matchup with a third place finisher in Group F – more than likely Colombia or our cousins across the pond – England.
The USWNT, with their most recent win, look prized to continue on their formidable climb to reach the pinnacle of the Women’s World Cup final, even if they do have a few summits to cross first before the apex.
With Alex Morgan back, and quite possibly a fix in the midfield with Lauren Holiday and Carli Lloyd in the middle with Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe on the wings, and the tandem of Morgan and Wambach as forwards, the US team certainly looks like they could continue further than they could from the first and second matches of the tournament, when it was a bit nervy for US fans and pundits. However, with Sydney Leroux coming off the bench for Morgan (or maybe even vice versa), many of the opposing teams won’t have the speed, tenacity, or skill to match the US offensive power.
But now with the Round of 16 coming up for the Lady Yanks, there very well might be some tough opponents (not like the Group Stage was a cake walk by any means) and with the US wanting to win the World Cup, it does still need to step up its game.
The women’s team for the US is very focused, goal-oriented, and passionate about winning the World Cup, and though it’s quite possible they could, the accuracy and skill and growth of other teams from even the past four years has been tremendous and not lacking confidence in any way.
With that said, the USWNT has a certain air about them. Although it may not be an air of abundant confidence (though it certainly could be), the USWNT has a certain spring in its step coming into the next later stage of the World Cup. If the women can keep the momentum going, don’t count out the world’s number two-ranked team for women’s national teams…the US women and supporters certainly aren’t.