Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh, Sad. Sad!

Mmmm. Mmm, mmm, mmmm. The WNT finished up with a 1-0 victory over Brazil last night in a friendly that rapidly devolved into anything but. I didn't see any of the Peace Queen matches, obviously, and didn't follow it closely enough to know if Brazil carried their hack-a-minute defensive style straight through from the World Cup to Korea to San Diego, but if they did take a break in the last tournament, they were back last night with a vengeance.

Brazil play dirty. Period. And they don't need to. Jesus, they absolutely don't need to, at least not when their holy trinity of Daniela, Cristiane, and Marta--otherwise known on the BigSoccer boards as Fast, Faster, and Fastest--are playing. Which they were not, in this series of stateside friendlies, and the US still barely escaped each time. The only consolation from last night, the only thing that kept the Wambach injury in the ah shite category rather than prompting me to whisper in Dick Cheney's ear that Brazil harbors prime al Qaeda training camps, is that it came on a clean play. It's a microscopic consolation at best.

What's this mean for the Olympics, with the Wombat watching from the sideline on crutches with a titanium rod in her shin? Amy Rodriguez brings one-on-one creativity and fearlessness on 21-year-old legs. Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O'Reilly have shown great flashes of combining well when they're on the field together. Carli Lloyd has power, turns well on the ball, and isn't afraid to shoot from distance, but sometimes has trouble keeping the ball on frame. Tash Kai is a huge ball of random puppy energy. Just ask the Brazilian player she barreled into when she came on the field in the second half. Her entry into the game turned the fire back on in the US attack, and she did get the deciding goal, but can she magically find the focus knob and learn which direction to turn it in the next three weeks before the Olympics start?

Final notes. Things I was wrong about: Mitts can play after all. She was very strong last night, and obviously worked her ass off to come back from her ACL tear suffered just before the World Cup. Angela Hucles' continued presence on the roster is no longer a mystery to me. Solid. And a thing I wasn't wrong about: completely aside from Wambach's behavior during the Great Hope Solo Fiasco, completely aside from how she may or may not comport herself with teammates, damn. The woman is made of rock, iron, and any number of other extremely tough things. After snapping both bones in her lower leg (watch the replay for the rebound after her left leg hits the ground and then undulates up in a way it's really not supposed to), she calmly waved for assistance and smiled a little rather than doing anything I would have done in that situation, which probably would have involved scream, puke, pass out, repeat.

Career-ender? I hope not. Her eyes as she rode the gurney off the field will haunt me for weeks.

Two ways to look at it. The door's open now for the young talent to show what they can do up top. Or there's now a huge hole up top left by the absence of one of the most prolific active goal-scorers in the game, who incidentally in the last year had added a decent amount of speed, foot skill, field vision, and distribution to her formerly head-based arsenal. Three weeks, Pia. Get to it.

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