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Can Wambach have an impact vs China?

USWNT vs China and Abby Wambach: How should she be used in this crucial FIFA WWC match?

June 25, 2015 By Michelle Bonsu
The veteran striker has come in for criticism due to her lack of sharpness so far during this World Cup. Can she prove useful against a strongly defensive China this Friday?

With 183 goals so far, 35-year-old Abby Wambach can lay claim to being the USA's all-time top scorer - both for women's and men's football. However, in her fourth World Cup tournament since making her debut during the 2003 edition, things have not gone as well as the veteran striker would have liked.

Although the USWNT finished their tough group top of the pile and are now into the quarter-finals after powering past Colombia 2-0, Wambach has not enjoyed her time in Canada thus far. For starters, the powerful attacker, known for her aerial ability, has been largely restricted by some tough defensive play and missed some clear-cut headers against Australia in the team's 3-1 opening win that she would have easily converted not too long ago.

Then, for the first time since 2003, she started from the bench in a 0-0 draw with Sweden, and despite finally opening her account to give the Stars and Stripes a crucial 1-0 win over Nigeria, she still was the subject of much criticism as to whether she should continue to hold a position in Jill Ellis's starting XI.

Against Colombia, the usually calm 2012 World Player of the Year cut a frustrated and cagey figure throughout, and shocking missed a penalty after Catalina Perez was deservedly given her marching orders for denying a goal-scoring opportunity. Yet, just as in the match with Australia that saw Megan Rapinoe step up with a brace, Wambach's blushes were spared as fellow forward Alex Morgan grabbed her first goal to give the USA a vital lead and Carly Lloyd kept her nerve to convert the team's second spot-kick to set up a re-match with China in the quarter-finals.

Given that Ellis has plenty of attacking options, including Morgan, Christen Press, and Sydney Leroux to pick from as they take on a highly-defensive Chinese outfit, it will be interesting to see how Wambach is used in this crunch match. Her shocking profligacy in front of goal is something that will be of major concern to her teammates and coach, both of whom still look to her to provide an attacking impetus that has been sorely lacking, but they may have to consider other options.

It is quite obvious that the tall striker is enduring a difficult tournament in Canada as she seeks her first ever World Cup title. And, some of her comments off-the-pitch have added fuel to the fire as some feel she is attempting to distract from her own disappointing showings by making some off-the-cuff remarks concerning the turf fields and some refereeing decisions that now have Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday out due to suspension:

"It seemed like she was purposefully giving those yellows to the players she knew were sitting on yellows. I don't know if it was just a psychological thing. Who knows?" she stated following her team's win over the Colombians. And despite trying to clear things up later, the damage had already been done, with some calling for her to be benched.

Still, her experience cannot be questioned at this level, as she has scored a total of 14 goals in her four World Cup tournaments. As a result, Ellis will be faced with a tough dilemma. Should she start her and hope that Wambach's personal frustration will spur her to finally overcome her own mental and physical hurdles that have held her back so far in Canada? Or should she opt to keep her on the bench and bring her on as a super-sub in order to unlock what will be a tough Chinese defense, in the hope that the USA's all-time top goal-scorer will fire them into the semi-finals?

As things look now, the latter option - starting her as a sub - will probably be their best option. However, regardless of how she is used on Friday one thing is certain. Abby Wambach will again be feeling the pressure on her shoulders as the USWNT hope to make amends following their heartbreak from four years ago in Germany and secure their spot in the history books in the process.

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