US Women’s team is on an ‘Abby Wambach or bust’ ride in World Cup


I’m a Rochesterian at heart. I went to college there, had family that retired from Eastman Kodak, loved Nick Tahou’s, and of course, treasure Abby Wambach.

Having said that it’s pretty clear that the best forward this generation has known is taking the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) on her shoulders, for better or for worse.

When you watch this USWNT, you get the impression that the talent level is so much greater than they’ve shown in the group stages of the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Whether it’s the shoehorning of players into unfitting tactical roles, or an uninspiring 1st half against Sweden where the entire team looked lost without Wambach, the plan appears to be “Abby or Bust.”

If it is a ploy by coach Jill Ellis, hoodwinking the bigger fish into a false sense of security over the American’s attacking plan, it sure is working because not even longtime fans of the team have much confidence at this point.

“Abby or Bust” might even work. That’s one of the dangers of criticizing the team for it’s current course. Wambach has been so good in the past that a goal like Tuesday night’s vs. Nigeria could set her straight and send the team onto their first World Cup in 16 years.

One of the reasons you could question that happening has been her clear disdain for artificial turf. Almost everyone would prefer grass, but her continued vocal criticism of the surface makes you wonder how much of the 90 minutes she spends thinking about it. Even a split-second hesitation in an attacking movement means the difference between perfection and a dribbling header wide.

But as Americans, we like our leaders. Wambach is clearly the leader on the USWNT. While the play often builds through Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe, and while Alex Morgan has gotten her share of targets, most of the final balls are directed Abby’s way. That design has led to a bunch of success in the past, primarily to multiple Olympic Gold Medals.

And at this point, it’s probably the only design that has a shot at lifting the Cup in this tournament. It’s too late to be instituting a different tactical plan – we saw the mess it made against Sweden.

This juggernaut was sent on its way long ago. After winning Group D, they accomplished the first objective. In a week or so, we’ll find out if the WNT can reach its ultimate goal, or if it falls short with much second-guessing.

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