Wambach, subs trigger hard-fought win

[WOMEN'S WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT] Late goals by Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan gave the USA a 3-1 win over France that moved it into the Women's World Cup final for the first time since 1999. Wambach's force of will brought back memories of another U.S. star, Michelle Akers, and the play of Megan Rapinoe and Morgan underscored the wealth of talent Coach Pia Sundhage has to work with off the bench.

“Abby Wambach to the rescue!” So exclaimed former national teamer and ESPN commentator Julie Foudy when Wambach crashed the far post to head home Lauren Cheney’s corner kick in the 79th minute to give the USA a 2-1 lead. Wambach’s goal, her third of the tournament in three straight games, quelled a long period of French pressure and turned the momentum decisively to the other side.

In postgame comments, Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm and Foudy all compared Wambach’s incredible prowess in critical situations to that of their former teammate Michelle Akers, whose robust, inspirational play as a forward and midfielder helped the USA win three titles: the 1991 and 1999 Women’s World Cups and the 1996 Olympic gold medal. She scored the winning goal in the 1991 final against Norway, and also netted vital goals in a 1996 Olympic semifinal against the same opponent and a 1999 semi victory over Brazil.

Akers retired in 2000 with 105 goals and 153 caps. She had 12 goals in the Women's World Cup, a total Wambach matched Wednesday.

Subs make their mark. A change in the 65th minute of substitute Megan Rapinoe taking over the left side of midfield and Lauren Cheney moving into the middle in place of Carli Lloyd addressed a tendency for the central midfield to become too stagnant, as Lloyd and Shannon Boxx are somewhat similar players who can be too predictable and were being smothered by France.

Cheney, a forward at UCLA, has adapted well to playing on the flanks but against France wasn’t seeing much of the ball. With the substitution, she slid comfortably into a central position. Even while up front, she prefers to peel away from the opponent’s back line and play as a second forward, and her presence opened up cracks in a French midfield very capable offensively but sometimes slow to close down the ball and fill gaps.

An earlier introduction of Alex Morgan in place of Amy Rodriguez had brought greater movement and speed into the attacking third, but the U.S. wasn’t able to exploit those factors until it gained some traction in midfield. Yet Morgan played a role in Wambach’s goal by lining up near keeper Berangere Sapowicz and blocking her path to reach Cheney’s looping ball to the back post.

Three minutes after Wambach’s goal, Morgan glided behind the French back line to collect a delicate flick from Rapinoe and coolly lob a shot over Sapowicz and thus seal the deal.

But you need the horses, too. Chat boards are brimming with rave reviews of head coach Pia Sundhage’s in-game moves and lambasting men’s coach Bob Bradley for his lack of such acumen, and certainly the praise for Sundhage and some of that criticism of Bradley is warranted.

Yet Sundhage has the advantage of backups -- Morgan, Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, Stephanie Cox, Lori Lindsey, even Tobin Heath -- who could start for other top national teams. That simply isn’t the case for most of the men’s starters, let alone the backups.

July 13 in Moenchengladbach
USA 3 France 1.
Goal: Cheney 9, Wambach 79, Morgan 82; Bompastor 55.
USA --
Solo, Krieger, Rampone, Sauerbrunn, LePeilbet, O'Reilly (Heath, 87), Boxx, Lloyd (Rapinoe, 65), Cheney, Rodriguez (Morgan, 55), Wambach.
France -- Sapowicz, Georges, Meilleroux, Soubeyrand (Thomis, 78), Bompastor, Abily, Lepailleur, Necib, Bussaglia, Thiney, Delie (Le Sommer, 46).

13 comments about "Wambach, subs trigger hard-fought win".
  1. Ed Peterson, July 13, 2011 at 5:25 p.m.

    numerology for Abby Wambach:


  2. Ernest Irelan, July 14, 2011 at 8:14 a.m.

    watching this game, it appeared that the French were going to blow it open...but, it seemed that USA regrouped, started stopping the aggressive attacks by the French, Solo kept up her end...the one goal she allowed was really a no winner for her, she had to go one way or other...she just guessed wrong as anyone watching would agree, had the French attacker got a touch on it, which it appeared she would, it would have been redirected for an easy goal...a no win situation for Solo...I think that Wambach is like a "mother hen" to all these youngsters an shows great leadership an no matter what, she comes thru in a clutch...that is experience an her aggressive nature really puts her up a notch, no matter if she does not show the dynamuc explosive speed some of her mates have...the coach has certainly played her "cards" right in her changes in substitutions...I think the header by Wambach was awesome in that it was a dangerous play for her going at the post high without fear to make contact with ball, also, just as easily came crashing into post....such are great players made of when it comes down to win or lose....

  3. Kent James, July 14, 2011 at 8:53 a.m.

    Ernest, good assessments of Solo and Wambach. Not sure why it takes so long to get Rampinoe on the field, since she really made things happen in every game (unless Sundhage goes with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality, though I'm not sure that should apply, since I'd like to believe we can play better than we have). Ridge is right about Boxx and Lloyd; they seem like mirror images of each other (and they remind me, for better or for worse, of the men's team's central midfield, Bradley and Jones/Edu/Clark; good work rate, solid defenders, decent ball skills, but very little creativity). I was concerned that when Boxx and Lloyd were playing, they often played in almost the exact same horizontal line, which seemed duplicative. And this was dangerous because on attack, they always played a supporting role (neither seemed to like to make incisive runs), and when we lost the ball, it seemed that the French almost always had players in the gap between our central midfield and back line. So there were many times when the French midfield/forwards seemed to be going at our defense with numbers either even or up, while Lloyd and/or Boxx were chasing them without much hope of catching them. I seems to me we need to play one of them higher than the other (or maybe a more creative player in the higher role), so we can get more efficient offense and are less likely to get caught up. But overall, kudos to the women for once again proving that good finishing is what wins games (and good goalkeeping can prevent you from losing them!).

  4. Daniel Clifton, July 14, 2011 at 9:39 a.m.

    Nice to see someone mention that fact that Morgan had a hand in Wambach's goal by delaying the goalie. The only way to stop that goal was for the goalie to get to the ball first, which is tough to do when the ball is coming from the other side of the field. Arena criticized the French goalie for not getting there in time but didn't point out the contribution of Morgan to her tardiness. I agree with the comments above about Boxx and Lloyd. They were overwhelmed by the French midfield, which played a woman up. Cheney brought the ball skills and creativity needed, and Rapinoe always seems to find a way to get free to feed the front runners. This is the first time I have noticed Morgan playing effectively. Her runs off the ball were really causing problems for the French back line. This French team was fun to watch. I watched their game against England and I knew they were going to give the US trouble with their possession. I don't understand why, with all of the women we have, who have been playing soccer for so many years, we can't play more of a possession game. It indicates our youth development is wanting in ball skill development. I coached youth women's soccer a number of years ago and I had real difficulty implementing the teaching of for instance the "Coerver moves". Among some elements of youth soccer there is a disdain for such skill development, which I don't understand.

  5. Mark Grody, July 14, 2011 at 11:04 a.m.

    Solo had to play the runner 1st, doesn't make it a guess, although she thought she could have done better, I'm not sure how.

    Being the teams super-sub is the best role for Rampinoe.

    When coming off the bench, she seems to play more to her strengths. When she starts, her negatives become a higher % of her play.

    I'd start Morgan over Rod in a heartbeat. Leave Buehler out as well. And, maybe start Cheney as the attacking mid (might be bad for team morale to not have Boxx & Loydd though).

    Lastly, one of the major components of youth soccer in this country is tournament play, which doesn't particularly facilitate tech skill.

  6. David Delk, July 14, 2011 at 11:48 a.m.

    I'd like to see Morgan start as well, but I have to believe that it would be hard to shake up the line-up at this point for the last game. We may all start different players, but the fact is that the team has reached the finals with the player personnel decisions being made. It's hard to justify a switch from that standpoint.

  7. Paul Justison, July 14, 2011 at 12:10 p.m.

    This game reminded me of Arsenal at Stoke City. Classy play undone by shaky goalkeeping and a physical team adept at set pieces and counter attacks.

  8. Claudia Helsdon, July 14, 2011 at 4:29 p.m.

    Daniel, I agree in regards to teaching youth soccer the possession game and technical skill. Far too often it is simply about sending the ball long behind the defense and running onto the ball and shooting. Works great in youth soccer when there is great differences in physical development. You win games , but the kids don't learn technical soccer. Key is find the coach/trainer that sticks to teaching possession and individual skill. Eventually those smaller kids who relied on skill will catch up physically.

  9. Claudia Helsdon, July 14, 2011 at 4:46 p.m.

    Another issue with USA Youth Soccer - The ODP program is essentially a money making program. You have to pay fees to go into the program...then maybe they see your talent and you move ahead. There is little scouting for new talent. Talent on smaller clubs is simply not even investigated or recognized. I am amazed when i see articles stating certain players have made the ODP program, when I know of many that are better but not even recognized. It basically because the family did not pay to have their child enter the program. USA needs a network of scouting to really find the talent.

  10. Wolfgang Wostl, July 14, 2011 at 7:32 p.m.

    Claudia, I agree with you in regard to the ODP programm. My granddaughter recently attended such a camp at a cost of $750 for 4 days. Her team consisted of 18 players. That's $ 13,500 per team. I believe there were 8 teams at the camp.Since they stayed at a college dorm, the income probably exceeded the expenses by quite a sum. Many years ago ...I won't tell how many years...I played on the US Olympic team. If my parents had to pay $750, I would have never attended such a camp. Why does US soccer have to make money on the developement of young players? Does not make sense to me.

  11. Aris Protopapadakis, July 14, 2011 at 7:40 p.m.

    It is nice to see the women get to the final. It is disheartening to see how the players' soccer skills have diminished in the last 10 years. Yes, they have heart, yes they have conditioning but their inability to keep the ball (as in not giving it away after one or two passes) is sad. There were times in both the Brazil and France games where they gave away the ball straight up from throw-ins.
    In reminds me, sadly, of English national team soccer! The French, the Japanese, the Brazilians, and eventhe Swedes have more skilled players than we do.
    We may win on Sunday if teh Japanese get overwhelmed by the occasion and maybe the physicality of the U.S. team but why is it that we can't developed really skilled palyer for the women's or the men's team?

  12. Dave Cloe, July 14, 2011 at 8:26 p.m.

    Amen, folks, amen. As a retired h.s. girls coach (state coach of the year in 1992 - no biggie, just providing some credentials), I am very disappointed in the lack of technical expertise among our female players at all levels, especially in high school. No way should the excuses we used in the early 90's should still be whined almost 20 years later. Our #6,7,10 and Buehler have no business being on the field at this level. Thank goodness for Solo, Cheney,Rampinoe, and Krieger. I'm looking to the Japanese to pull one out on Sunday, which would be just fine as they are playing the most inspired, beautiful soccer in the tournament.

  13. Ronnie j Salvador, July 14, 2011 at 8:46 p.m.

    ODP has diminished in significance the last few years. Still, the organizers justify the cost as what funds the national pool. ODP or via other channels, the USA is predominantly a pay~to~play situation for youth soccer. Until the money factor is taken mostly out of the equation, the country will not find the best talent.

    Japan is playing a nicer brand of soccer, and I hope they win on Sunday. However, we all know that the beautiful game doesn’t always win. If it did, Spain or Brazil [for the Men] would win every World Cup, and we’d see Japan vs France this Sunday.

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