Abby Wambach's broken leg is a "huge blow" to the chances of the U.S. women's Olympic team winning gold in Beijing, writes Andrea Canales, especially for a roster already robbed of experienced players such as defender Cat Whitehill and midfielder Leslie Osborne. But while many of the players that Coach Pia Sundhage takes to the Olympics will be young and untested, the team no longer relies so heavily on Wambach as its goal-scoring source as it did under previous coach Greg Ryan.
"Above everything else, I'm only one player, and you can never win a championship with just one player," Wambach said in a statement. That wasn't so true a year ago, Canales points out, when Wambach lead "a direct attack game" under Ryan, scoring 20 of the team's 62 goals. Sundhage's de-emphasis of Wambach's role "might be what could ultimately save the team now."
The new possession-based tactics have created more opportunities for other players. Though Wambach still leads scoring with 13 goals this year, Lindsey Tarpley has 10, while Natasha Kai has 12, including the winning header versus Brazil that she scored after Wambach's injury. "Simply put, the team is not as lost without Wambach as it would have been before Sundhage came in and varied the team's attack."