Despite 5 goals, US not making most of chances
The first header was misdirected, going wide by a few feet. The
next soared over the goal. A shot from close range smacked into a
defender, and another easy one banged off the post.
By the end of the game, all Abby Wambach could do was laugh at
”It’s a joke at that point,” she said.
Finishing has been an issue all year for the United States, and
it’s more of the same at the Women’s World Cup. Though the
Americans have five goals from their first two matches, they easily
could have double that. Wambach and fellow forward Amy Rodriguez
have been missing – badly – and others are squandering chances,
The missed opportunities haven’t cost the Americans – yet. But
chances are sure to dwindle the deeper they go in the tournament,
and the Americans can’t afford to keep leaving goals on the
”We didn’t finish our chances,” coach Pia Sundhage
acknowledged after the U.S. routed Colombia 3-0 on Saturday. ”But
as long as we create chances, I’m happy. We’ll put away the chances
Already through to the quarterfinals, the United States plays
Sweden on Wednesday to determine the Group C winner. The Americans
have the advantage in goal differential, meaning they’ll finish
atop the group with a win or a tie.
Goals have been hard to come by for almost everybody in the
tournament. Only Japan, with six, has scored more than the U.S.,
with France also having five. Germany, the two-time defending
champion and pre-tournament favorite, has scored just three
But unlike most teams, the Americans aren’t trying to scratch
out opportunities. They’ve had them. Loads of ’em. In the first two
games, the U.S. had 21 shots on goal.
Compare that with Japan, which had 13. Or Germany, which had
So what’s the problem? It starts up front, with Wambach and
Few defenders can keep pace with Rodriguez, and that speed helps
her get plenty of good looks around the goal. But her shots have
been just a touch off. Take her rebound of a Wambach miss early
against Colombia. She had a straight-on shot from close range, only
to put too much power behind it and send it flying over the
”I have the greatest teammates,” Rodriguez said. ”Every shot
I took, they were like, `You’re going to get the next one; you’re
going to get the next one.”’
That’s Wambach’s mindset, too.
Wambach is the third-leading scorer in U.S. history with 117
goals and is second only to Michelle Akers with nine World Cup
goals. But she has scored just once this season, and her
shortcomings here have been glaring. She is the world’s best player
in the air, yet her headers have clearly been off-target.
”I could sit here and analyze and reanalyze every shot I took
today and why it didn’t go in,” Wambach said after the Colombia
game. ”But that would be selfish on my part. It’s not about me;
it’s about the team.”
Wambach has yet to win a World Cup – the last U.S. title came in
1999 – and has said repeatedly that the title means more to her
than adding to her goal tally.
”I’d rather win it and not score than score six goals and us
lose,” said Wambach, whose textbook perfect pass set up Lauren
Cheney’s goal against North Korea, the Americans’ first of the
While Wambach seemed to be pressing at times against Colombia,
neither Sundhage nor her teammates are all that concerned. They’re
not going to tell her to stop shooting, either.
”She didn’t put her chances away today, but she will before the
tournament ends,” Sundhage said. ”She will score a goal, sooner
Besides, the Americans would rather look at the positive side.
Their five goals have come from five different players, including
Rachel Buehler, a defender. Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Lauren
Cheney all got their first goals in the World Cup – and Rapinoe
almost scored two more, banging a shot off the crossbar against
Colombia and having one waved off against North Korea on a
debatable possession call.
And the Americans are getting – creating – chances. As long as
they keep doing that, they’re confident the ball will go in at some
”We’ve had five different goal scorers, which is a great thing.
It’s a huge positive,” Heather O’Reilly said. ”The goals will