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June 3, 2015 — The U.S. arrives, but will its game come with them?

As the U.S. women’s national soccer team arrives in Canada this week, the widening FIFA bribery scandal has managed to take all of the focus off the troubles surrounding the side less than a week before its opening match. In a weird way, U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch, Interpol, and the government of Switzerland may have done the Hammers a favor.

That’s because the media are focusing on the scandal rather than on the numerous issues surrounding the team:

1. Hope Solo. Without the Blatter resignation, the white-hot focus on the world’s media would be focused on the United States goalkeeper, whose arrest last year on domestic violence charges brought a feckless response from U.S. Soccer. The episode only added to the perception that the governing body was tone-deaf not only to the issue of domestic violence in a national conversation, but that some of Solo’s personal and professional decisions were less than helpful.

2. Injuries to key players. When Jill Ellis chose her World Cup squad, it was with the knowledge that a number of players were coming off major injuries. This included Solo, Lori Chalupny, Abby Wambach, and Alex Morgan. But in the last friendly before the World Cup, midfielder Megan Rapinoe, she of the lethal left foot, did not play because of an injury. It’s a good thing that the current World Cup roster is 23 players, up from 20 in 2003.

3. Lack of chemistry up top. Wambach, the world-record scorer for international teams (male or female), is struggling with her fitness, and has been referred to as a “super sub” rather than as a player who can give 90 minutes or more. What that has done is create a U.S. attack which is predicated on speed rather than physicality. Morgan, Sydney Leroux, and Amy Rodriguez are the other three forwards on the U.S. roster, and are very similar players. Only Wambach gives a change of pace up top.

4. Fitness. Last Saturday, the U.S. team looked like they were playing in sand rather than on the grass of Red Bull Arena. The kind of vigor that the U.S. team showed in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal win over Brazil and in the 2012 Olympic semifinal against Canada were simply not in evidence. Poor passing, poor first touches, poor decisions in the attacking third. I don’t know whether this performance was designed to throw a dummy at coaches looking to tape the game to study tendencies, but this doesn’t look good just before a World Cup.

5. A young woman’s game. The U.S. roster includes the likes of Wambach, Shannon Boxx, Solo, and Christie Rampone, all of whom are age 33 or older. Seven members of the U.S. team were on the 2007 team that was bounced by Brazil in the semifinals. Yes, it’s good to have veteran leadership, but there are plenty of younger players in the national team pool such as Crystal Dunn who I think would do a tremendous job on the world stage.

The 2015 Women’s World Cup is being seen as a final chance to get Wambach a World Cup in her personal resume. But if the U.S. doesn’t sort out its issues, it may not exit its group, which includes some very stout sides in Australia, Sweden, and Nigeria.


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