After the United States Women’s National Team defeated Sweden 3-0 Saturday, U.S. Head Coach Pia Sundhage indicated that she is still exploring options up front to pair with Abby Wambach beyond the obvious names like Lauren Cheney. Amy Rodriguez seems set to partner Wambach up top as 2011 Women’s World Cup Qualifying approaches in late October, but the rest of the depth chart still needs to be sorted out.
Rodriguez has the inside track, but beyond that answers seem unclear. Lauren Cheney had a spectacular Algarve Cup in February and March. There she scored four of her five goals with the United States in 2010, but has followed that up with a mediocre season with the Boston Breakers. Reports are that Alex Morgan has struggled throughout the summer in the W-League and WPSL and has seen limited action under Sundhage in 2010. Kelley O’Hara is also an option up top, but Sundhage seems to favor her pace in a wide midfield role. All are competing for spots approaching 2011, but that does not mean any of them will be in Germany next summer.
“And there will be more players competing for that spot I think in the future,” Sundhage said of the forward position Saturday.
Already in Germany now for the U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sydney Leroux is making quite a case for herself to get a look from Sundhage. In 2008, Leroux scored five goals, earned the Golden Shoe and the Golden Boot and led the United States to the U-20 Women’s World Cup Championship. She has followed that up with five goals already in just three group games and is now the all-time leading U.S. scorer in U-20 World Cup, passing Kelly Wilson, who scored nine goals in the 2002 U-20 Women’s World Cup alone.
Leroux is a player that can change games. That has been evident thus far in the 2010 installment of the tournament, where Leroux has scored in every game. Granted, she has a tendency to go invisible during matches like she did in last week’s opening group match against Ghana. However, Leroux is also a classic dangerous striker because she has the ability to find one opportunity and bury it even during a poor game by her standards – which is exactly what she did in that game against Ghana. Leroux saw little of the ball and had few opportunities, but finished the one great chance she got in the 70th minute to secure the U.S. a 1-1 draw.
It is that game-changing ability that could get her a call-up from Pia Sundhage in a pre-World Cup Qualifying camp in the fall. That and her individual flair and willingness to take on defenders, something soccer legend Mia Hamm discussed Wednesday as lacking in the American game.
“For me, one of the things that I would love to see is the creativity,” Hamm said of what American players need to do more of.
Leroux is a player that can certainly bring that creativity off the bench and at least deserves a look from Sundhage. For all the criticism Rodriguez gets, she has to be given credit for her willingness to take on players (at least thus far in 2010) and she has completely turned around her WPS career thanks to that. With Sundhage hinting at bringing in more forwards, Leroux seems a likely option. She is at least worth taking the risk on in a training camp or even possibly at World Cup Qualifying, although UCLA Head Coach Jill Ellis may not be thrilled with losing Leroux for part of the college season.
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