The United States women's national team will soon be playing their third match of group play at the 2015 Women's World Cup. A win, a draw and even a loss could still get the U.S. through to the knockout round.
Head coach Jill Ellis's squad sit in first place in their group with four points with Australia just a point behind. Sweden is in third place with just two points from their first two games and Nigeria follows up with a single point.
After beating Australia 3-1, the U.S. could only manage a 0-0 draw with former coach Pia Sundhage's Sweden.
Match date/time: Tuesday, 7 p.m. CT
Venue: BC Place,Vancouver, Canada
TV: FOX (English), NBC Universo (Spanish)
Streaming: Fox Sports Go, NBC Deportes (Spanish)
Wambach blasts turf for scoring woes
Veteran forward and vocal leader Abby Wambach told ESPN recently that the U.S. would score more if the games were played on grass.
Every match of the 2015 Women's World Cup is being played on artificial turf fields. That fact was the basis for lawsuits to force FIFA and Canada to convert to grass before the tournament but after some legal setbacks the group of players eventually dropped the lawsuit.
Very few players like playing on turf and virtually every player will say they prefer to play on grass because the play is better. On turf the ball will bounce higher and roll faster.
"The ball as it comes off my head against Sweden hits a dry turf and bounces higher," Wambach told ESPN. "If it hits grass, it's harder for a goalkeeper to react, so if the ball bounces higher the goalkeeper has more time to react off the turf."
The risk to body is greater on turf as well and that played into how Abby attempted headers.
"I'm throwing my body, I'm not worried about anything," she said. "There's no second-guessing."
"In the previous game, I don't lay out and commit to those headers and that's why they glance off my head rather than me contacting them," Wambach added. "For me, I definitely think that the U.S. has more goals if we're playing on grass."
Too late for complaining
Wambach is correct that the turf will affect play although a faster ball could play into U.S. hands with the speed up top that is available (Rodriguez, Leroux, Morgan).
While everyone supported the effort to have grass, at this point it is too late to complain. All the teams have to play on it, it's been a known fact far before the players were named to rosters.
Besides just sounding bitter, Wambach admitted to not giving it her all. She acknowledges not laying out for a header because of the turf. A single goal against Sweden could have advanced the U.S. to the next round and key players could have rested for the final group game.
Free Lauren Holiday!
The offense has struggled against better and more organized teams. Ellis has inverted the previously successful duo of Lloyd at holding mid and Lauren Holiday at attacking mid and the offense has been stale ever since.
It has been too predictable and direct. If Wambach starts, the front is slow as well. Getting Holiday more into the attack, preferably with Amy Rodriguez up top to recreate the successful attack that FC Kansas City enjoyed last year would be a good start.
Add Tobin Heath in the midfield and another quick forward (anybody but Wambach) and the offense will become far more dynamic.
If Lloyd is not capable of playing d-mid anymore then Ellis should have brought in a true holding mid, Jen Buczkowski would have been a good option.
The U.S. is capable of winning it all even with no changes, they have so much talent and athletic ability but it looks increasingly unlikely. Even freeing Holiday attack may be too little too late. Holiday and Rodriguez did not look the same as they did last year when they were with FC Kansas City for three games before rejoining the national team.
Both looked like they had the chemistry drilled out of them. Holiday seemed unable to shake off the defensive responsibility first mentality from the U.S. and A-Rod's runs reverted back to being more direct.
Wambach should be saved for games where a goal is needed late (if she is willing to sacrifice for it).
2019 World Cup (what is needed by then)
New blood, roster spots for those who are playing well at the time (not counting the number of World Cups they have attended) and a coach that is willing and capable of coaching possession, creativity and attacking.
Maybe FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski could be convinced to take the job. Yes there are others, he just comes to mind for obvious reasons.
One more thing is needed.