Editors’s Note: The US Women are about to kickoff their World Cup, TSG guest columnist Maura Gladys concludes the positional review with the forwards. This piece written last week.
Part II: USWNT: About That Midfield
The United States is poised to have it’s trademark potent offense in Germany next week, thanks to a strong mix of veterans and bright, young talent. Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez are pretty clear-cut starters, and should be. Wambach is big, tall, fast and ferocious. She’s the clear the central point of the offense, and her 118 goals in 157 games confirms that.
Amy Rodriguez seems to be the best option to pair with Wambach. Yes, A-Rod blew about a million chances against Mexico, and it was fellow forward Lauren Cheney who netted the game-winner, but Rogriguez has the experience and complementary style that pairs nicely with Wambach. And the two are finally linking up effectively. They struggled finding each other in the two games against Japan, but looked much improved against Mexico.
Then there’s Alex Morgan. Morgan is a firecracker of a player who makes an immediate impact on the game the moment her feet hit the field. She proved that when she netted the game-winner against Italy last fall and created several great opportunities against Japan on May 18 with her speed and timing. In short, she’s the perfect catalyst to come off the bench in the second half to give the team an offensive spark in a close game.
The big question is when Sundhage will choose to bring her in. Against Japan, with the U.S. already leading, Morgan entered in the 61st minute. But against Mexico, with the U.S. deadlocked in a scoreless tie, and struggling to put the ball in the net, Sundhage waited until the 76th minute to insert Morgan. During that game she also dropped back Lauren Cheney into the midfield when she subbed out Amy Rodriguez, ensuring that there would only be two strikers instead of bumping up a third striker to add some extra offense when a key goal was clearly needed. Sundhage’s justification for this was that the two striker system complements Morgan and Wambach’s skills together, and so adding a third forward would take away from that effectiveness.
This raises a few red flags. If Mexico was a meaningful World Cup game, and Lauren Cheney didn’t save the day with her wonderstrike, the coach would probably take some heat about not throwing a bit more offense forward. That kind of hesitancy to take risks during close games is a bit of a concern, especially for games like North Korea, where possession might be a rare commodity and the U.S. might need to capitalize on the few chances they get.
Let’s not forget aboiut Lauren Cheney. While Cheney will not likely beat out Rodriguez for that starting spot next to Wambach, she adds an important dimension to the squad. Not only does she possess the ability to change a game with one strike (Mexico, anyone?), she can also drop back into midfield and provide support there.
Overall, the front line is polished, fast and aggressive, and should be the strongest group of performers in Germany.