In Defense of Abby Wambach

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Since the beginning of the year, Abby Wambach has been under a very critical microscope. In her 240 caps since 2001, she has scored 180 goals for her country, the most in USWNT history. Abby Wambach is an NCAA Division I champion, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year, and one of Time Magazine’s Time 100. But, she doesn’t have a World Cup victory, and no one will let her forget it.

Ireland v United States

Fans and media alike have been questioning Wambach’s ability to contribute to this World Cup team, questioning her age, her fitness, and her general effectiveness on the pitch. It’s time I took a side in this hint of a debate to say enough is enough. No one has ever wanted anything as much as Abby Wambach wants this World Cup victory, and she is going to prove it every step of the way.

On Sunday, May 10, the USWNT took on the Republic of Ireland in the first of three World Cup send-off series games. If you didn’t see it, you didn’t miss much. The USWNT lacked the spark we expect from them despite the story that the 3-0 score tells. What I want to talk about is the first goal of the game. On one of about a million corners from Megan Rapinoe, an Ireland defender went to clear the ball on the first touch, but she unfortunately sent the ball directly into the face of her teammate Meabh De Burca. The ball rebounded to the control of Christen Press, who made a quick pass into Wambach at the top of the six-yard box. Wambach clinically knocked it into the goal past a keeper and defenders who were likely distracted by their potentially injured teammate.

Don’t get me wrong: This was not the goal the US needed to add the spark to their game, but it was still important. Growing up playing soccer, you’re always told, “Play until the whistle.” Basically, until the referee stops the game, the game is still on. That’s what Wambach did. Playing until the whistle in this instance is what put the team on top and got them in a scoring mood. As we’ve seen in recent games against New Zealand and Switzerland, often the first goal opens the floodgates for many more. With this goal, Abby Wambach cracked the floodgates, just enough, to get a win underway. I’m not saying it’s a dream goal; it could even be called bittersweet, but a goal is a goal is a goal and goals win games.

This singular moment says a lot about Wambach. Couple that with the aforementioned résumé, her leadership ability, and weight of the World Cup losses she carries with her, and I’m going to put my money on Wambach every time. She’s the player that will score when scoring needs to happen, when the pressure is highest. No one will let Abby Wambach forget that she hasn’t won a World Cup, but even more so, Abby Wambach won’t let Abby Wambach forget she hasn’t won a World Cup. And that’s what is going to take her to a victory.

This Sunday, May 17, the USWNT is taking on Mexico for what is likely to be a very high pace, physical game. Follow with me on Twitter @EmCAnderson and check out http://www.ussoccer.com for info on how to watch the game live.

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