A monthly column about the State of U.S. Soccer that takes a hard look at everything from the performance of the U.S. National Teams to pro soccer in the good ‘ole U-S-of-A . If you’re looking for a viewpoint that you won’t see in a generic, nuts-and-bolts U.S. Soccer press release, you’ve come to the right place.
The Armchair Midfielder takes a gander at the almost ideal mix of experience and youth that U.S. Women’s National Team head coach April Heinrichs selected to her final 20-player roster. Now she has to decide which eleven to put on the field when the ball is kicked off on Sept. 21 in D.C. Injuries, recent play and past history will all play a part in determining the eleven that will step on the field to try to win a third Women’s World Cup trophy, so it’s no easy task. With that in mind, here’s a preview of what could be the most talented U.S. team to play in a Women’s World Cup:
Goalkeepers (2): Siri Mullinix, Briana Scurry.
There’s no doubt that Bri is back to her old self (and if you ask the Atlanta Beat star, better than in ’99) and deserves to be the one prowling the penalty area. After the disappointment of losing her starting role to Siri in 2000, she’s been on an almost three-year mission to be not only the best U.S. keeper, but the best keeper in the WUSA and the world. I have but two words: mission accomplished. If something should happen to Ms. Scurry, Mullinix is more than a dependable understudy, capable of stepping in and stepping up in a World Championship like she did in Sydney.
Defenders(7): Kylie Bivens, Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Christie Pearce, Cat Reddick, Danielle Slaton, Kate Sobrero.
If you go by previous Women’s World Cup experience, the U.S. backline is stacked, with the crew from ’99 – Sobrero at right back, Joy and Brandi in the middle, and versatile sub Pearce on the left – presenting an ideal starting four. But not so fast. Cat’s performance in a U.S. uniform and Slaton and Bivens’ success in the WUSA over the past two years warrant a good hard look at all three to be starters. Cat looks to have the edge at left back, displaying a toughness into the tackle and an ability to play big balls out of the back, while Sobs will be steady as ever in her second World Cup. The only knock on the U.S. central defense might be its age (both 35), but the experience and veteran leadership that the two ‘91-ers bring to the middle is the envy of every coach in the tournament.
Midfielders (6): Shannon Boxx, Julie Foudy, Angela Hucles, Kristine Lilly, Tiffany Roberts, Aly Wagner.
The midfield is where you’ll find the newest blood in the U.S. camp, led by potentially the best playmaker the U.S. has ever had in Aly Wagner. Whether she’s lifting a shot to the upper corner to surprise the opposing ‘keeper or slipping a through ball into the path of an onrushing forward, she could be the key to the USA’s offensive success this year. But to have an impact, she has to be able to create chances against the top teams in the world in back-to-back-to-back games rather than pad her points total against the minnows of CONCACAF (that means you, Costa Rica). TR and late, late addition Boxx both look suited to jump in at d-mid, but team talker/leader Julie Foudy is the best bet to fill the gutsy, win-at-all-costs role that Michelle Akers was so heavily relied upon for four years ago. Ms. Consistency, Kristine Lilly, will of course own the left flank for the Golden Girls, with Hucles backing her up. The right flank spot is the only real question mark, with the possibility of forward Cindy Parlow sliding back to wreak havoc on both sides of the ball with her bruising style.
Forwards (5): Mia Hamm, Shannon MacMillan, Tiffeny Milbrett, Cindy Parlow, Abby Wambach.
As strange as this may sound for someone who has 140+ career goals and six goals and seven assists in 18 previous WWC games, this could be a breakout tournament for Mia Hamm. If recent results (11 goals and 11 assists to tie for the WUSA lead in scoring) provide any preview, this could be the best of her four World Cups. It’s a no-brainer to team her with mighty youngster Abby Wambach after their ridiculous success combining up front together for the Freedom, not to mention the individual dominance that she showed in putting D.C. on her back and delivering the Founders Cup III title. While Millie was the team’s sparkplug in 2000 and 2001, it looks as if she’ll make her mark as the team’s super sub throughout the Cup, providing a double espresso shot to the system like MacMillan did so well in ’99. Speaking of Mac, by the time the first game is played, she’ll still be struggling to be match-fit, but don’t be surprised to see her slotted in at right midfield or up top by the end of the tournament after gaining confidence and fitness off the bench.
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (A Look at the U.S. Women’s World Cup Team)
2) In Threes (w/ MNT midfielder Steve Ralston)
3) Whatever Happened to... (former WNT forward Carin Gabarra)
4) Queries & Anecdotes (w/ U-17 MNT defender Julian Valentin)
5) Mark That Calendar (WNT vs. Group D Opponents – Sept. 21, 25, 28)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ WNT midfielder Shannon Boxx)
7) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Who will win the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003?)
8) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" (Women’s World Cup Trivia)
***HOW'S OUR WRITING?***
We want feedback. No, really. Positive, negative, indifferent--we take all kinds. Reach us at: email@example.com.