Abby Wambach is one of the most recognizable faces in women’s soccer. Many are calling, however, for Wambach to come off the bench.
Team USA is reporting that Wambach, one of the most decorated players in women’s soccer history, would like to add one more to the Olympic gold medals, FIFA player of the year, NCAA champion, and international scoring leader; a World Cup championship. And, at the age of 35, Wambach feels that this is her last chance at that title.
“Right now, you’re damn right I need it,” Wambach said. “It’s all that I’m thinking about, all that’s on my mind. It’s the thing that I haven’t been able to be a part of. It’s the thing I haven’t won yet.”
Wambach has come close three times, losing to Germany in 2003 in the semifinals, to Brazil in 2007 in the semifinals, and to Japan in the championship match in 2011.
“The Olympic Games are fantastic, but the women’s World Cup is the premier event in our sport, so I think the players are excited about the opportunity,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “They have confidence in what they are capable of doing and again like myself, see it as an opportunity to do something great for this game and our country.”
Wambach’s legacy is extraordinary. Wambach’s played 242 matches, placing second to Christine Rampone’s 306. But, at 182 goals, Wambach stands alone. The nearest player is Mia Hamm with 158 goals, and Hamm’s been retired for 11 years now.
However, Yahoo! Sports is reporting that perhaps Wambach would serve the USWNT better if she would come off the bench and give some of the younger players to contribute. This isn’t such a new idea. Pia Sundhage, who was the USWNT coach until her resignation so she could coach the Swedish women’s team, thought Wambach coming off the bench would be a good idea.
“I said that to Abby,” Sundhage recalled. “I told her: ‘If I stayed, you would be a sub. The best sub ever. But a sub.’ There was no question about that in my mind.”
Another consideration comes into play here. Alex Morgan, one of the young spark plugs on the team, is just coming off a knee injury, but has begun playing. However, the rust on her game was obvious. One idea is that Morgan starts the game, then substitute Wambach to bring in the experience and energy Wambach provides.
Can Wambach beat back the monsters of the past and win her first World Cup in what may be her last chance? Would she be more successful coming off the bench? It will all be known soon.
[Image courtesy of U.S. Soccer]