Welcome back Maura Gladys. We missed your USWNT coverage.
No one knows when the exact moment occurred. We don’t know if it was a instant of enlightenment at a day of training, a late-night soul-searching session or the second that Japan lifted the trophy at the Women’s World Cup last summer.
But at some point in the last year, Pia Sundhage made the conscious decision to start both Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, and that was the moment that determined the outcome of this summer’s Olympic Games women’s soccer tournament.
Because of that pairing, along with several other tactical shifts and decisions, the United States is rolling on all cylinders and is poised to defend their Olympic gold medal.
Unlike the men’s tournament, which is essentially a U-23 tournament, the women bring their strongest squads and the stakes are just as high as the World Cup.
With the U.S. playing at their current level, they are the odds-on favorite to defeat the likes of Brazil, Japan and France to claim their third gold medal in as many Games.
The move to put Morgan and Wambach together up top is huge in that endeavor.
The two play beautifully together, with Wambach still operating largely in her target striker role and Morgan using her speed, balance and vision to sneak behind defenses and create opportunities for herself and Wambach. It’s what “we” were begging for from Pia a year ago. Add in Sydney Leroux a lightning-quick super sub (a role Morgan donned in apprenticeship last year), and the forward position is completely stacked and more than equipped to take on any defense in the world.
Now, the other key moments that have and-or will, define the U.S. women’s road to gold.
January 20th, 2012, USA vs. Dominican Republic, 43rd minute:
As soon as Ali Krieger crumpled to the turf of B.C. Place in the middle of the United States’ 14-0 rout of Dominican Republic, the U.S.’ defense changed drastically, and not for the better.
Krieger was arguably the best right back in the world and the bright spot on a usually sputtering defense.
Krieger tore her ACL and MCL in her right knee, sidelining her for the Games and forcing Sundhage to accelerate her experiment of converted forward Kelly O’Hara at left back, and switch Amy LePeilbet, a converted center back who had been playing on the left, over to the right. Instead of easing into a defensive role in preparation for Christie Rampone’s retirement and subsequent need for more depth, O’Hara was essentially handed a starter’s role and forced to learn on the fly.
And she’s done fine.