Women’s World Cup: Team USA wins with youth

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Photo above: Cali Lloyd of Team USA scores with a header in the 51st minute. (YouTube)

Saying goodbye is never easy when the person you are saying it to has meant so much to your success. In sports, it often results in fan outrage, players left with permanently hurt feelings, and coaches wondering whether or not they did the right thing.

I remember when the Giants traded an aging Willie Mays to the Mets and how it left fans in the Bay Area angry. Years later, the 49ers would trade Joe Montana and placed the team’s future in the hands of a younger, faster, and more creative Steve Young. And who can forget how fans reacted to the Packers choosing Aaron Rogers over a still very good Brett Farve?

In each case, the team’s made the right decision despite any negative fall out or achievements made by the aging star. Mays would make it to the World Series where his age and declining skills hurt the Mets. Montana would guide the Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs. And Farve would have one of his best seasons ever for the Minnesota Vikings. However, in the case of both the 49ers and Packers, their move for youth would result in Super Bowl victories and in sports, it is all about winning.

So it should be no different for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team where in their quarter final match against China, they showed just how dynamic they are without the services of their all time leading scorer and face of the team, Abby Wambach.

Team USA vs Team China right after Carli Lloyd scored. (YouTube)
Team USA vs Team China right after Carli Lloyd scored. (YouTube)

Wambach watched from the bench for 85 minutes while her replacement, Amy Rodriguez made life miserable for the Chinese women. From her near miss on goal a minute into the match right up until she was pulled with just five minutes left, Rodriguez was explosive, creative, and down right infectious with her play.

Teaming up with Alex Morgan, they gave the American squad a feared attack, both with long through balls and their ensuing runs as well as with masterful one touch passing in every direction possible. And it was not just these two; the entire team got in on the action and played a beautiful game and for the first time made people see why they are a threat to win the World Cup.

Carli Lloyd also shined as she benefited from the suspension of fellow mid-fielder Lauren Holiday. Without Holiday, Lloyd had more space to play in and made explosive runs on goal that eventually paid off with her 51st minute header for the game’s only goal.

Then there was the continued great play by the U.S. back line, which is playing at a level never before seen in World Cup play. The few times China threatened, the women remained calm and always in position preventing any real threats on goal. And with Hope Solo tossing another shut out in goal, one has to wonder what it will take for an opponent to score a goal.

But back to Wambach. Her style of play and age make it so she is more of a hindrance to the U.S. attack than a help. While she is always a threat to score with her head on set pieces, she is unable to play with the same speed, creativeness, and intensity shown by Rodriguez.

The women play a much slower and lazier game with Wambach on the field and if they are going to beat a tired German team in Tuesday’s semi final, they will want to bring the passion, hustle, and hunger they displayed against China, all of which had been missing in their first four games.

Wambach still has use, but not as a starter. Certainly, if the team is in need of a late goal, she makes for a great substitute. However, she is no threat at any other time.

The time is now for this young group of very talented women. They may still fall short of their goal for a third World Cup title, but it won’t be for a lack of energy, hustle, and creativity if they stick with a lineup like they used against China. And in the end, just like in men’s athletics, it’s all about winning games and nothing else.