Posted on July 17, 2011
By Michael Lewis
I’m running out of time and words with all the news and updates surrounding the Red Bulls and the U.S. women.
Saying that, here’s a quick look on five keys for the American women against Japan in the Women’s World Cup final in Frankfurt, Germany on Sunday (ESPN, 2:45 p.m. ET):
Don’t feel cocky
The United States cannot enter the match feeling over-confident against Japan. The Americans might feel good about themselves with their success in the quarterfinals and semifinals. But the same could be said of the Japanese, who have been the underdog darlings of the tournament after toppling Germany and then Sweden. Not too shabby. Japan might not seem as imposing as the taller Americans, but as we all know, size doesn’t always matter in soccer (just ask Lionel Messi, especially when he isn’t playing for Argentina). The Japanese are skilled team and have used their quickness to pull off those upsets. U.S. coach Pia Sundhage obviously has played those two 2-0 WWC wins over Japan over and over again for her team.
And while people in the U.S. might be waving the red, white and blue for their team, Japan could have rooting interest from the rest of the world as the team plays for its country in wake of that devastating earthquake.
Sundhage must deploy the best possible lineup and formation, make the correct substitutions and find a way to stop the much quicker Japan side. As for the team’s spirit and inspiration, Sundhage has to continue to be herself with that positive attitude and her singing. At the rate she is going (a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics), Sundhage might have this job for life, if she wants it, or until she runs out of songs.
Solo has stood on her head when it has counted in several previous matches and while it might be unfair to expect it yet again, she must play an error-free game. Of course, coming up with a big save or two certainly will not hurt.
Despite playing with an injured Achilles, Abby Wambach has risen to the occasion — literally and figuratively, — scoring important goals while leap through the air on head shots. She has to have at least one more goal left in her for the Americans to take the final victory lap. It will be interesting to see how Japan tries to shut her down.
The most underrated player
That’s easy — Lauren Cheney. Lost in the hoopla for the team in general, Sundhage’s songs, Solo’s save’s, Wambach’s goals and imposing stature and even Christie Rampone being the latest version of the ultimate soccer mom is Cheney. It seems that Cheney has been involved directly or indirectly on every important goal for the U.S. Cheney has been the U.S.’s most consistent midfielder, especially on attack.
Regardless what transpires today, enjoy the game.
Categories: Editorial, U.S.A., Women
Tags: Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Hope Solo, Lauren Cheney, Pia Sundage, Women's World Cup