Sunday, September 07, 2003

U.S. 5, Mexico 0 (Women's Soccer)

Within the last few months, Abby Wambach has gone from being just a good striker who is effective in the air, to an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. Early in the first half, Wambach, with her back to the goal, suddenly turned and rocketed a shot into the upper corner of the net to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. This was a Mia Hamm-style deceptive shot that looked like it would be a pass. Wambach seemed to be all over the field, creating a variety of attacking opportunities. Mexico self-destructed by giving up 3 penalty kicks in the game, but 2 of the 3 penalty kicks resulted from fouls committed in an attempt to stop Wambach. So Wambach really contributed to 3 of the 5 goals.

The difference between Wambach and Shaq is that a basketball team might reasonably give up some free throws in order to slow down Shaq. But for a soccer team to give up 2 penalty kicks to slow down Wambach, well that just looks crazy. In the foul that led to the final PK, a Mexican defender went down, flailing her legs at Wambach in what looked an awful lot like an NFL lineman style leg-whip. The leg-whip, by the way, is not only illegal in the NFL, but often results in a monetary fine against the offender.

But speaking of appalling fouls, the one that got Kylie Bivens thrown out of the game only minutes after she came on as a substitute was probably the worst of the day. Bivens slid cleats-first at a Mexican player, missing the ball but clipping her opponent's leg just above the knee, in a play that made no sense at all. The U.S. already had the game in hand at that point, and there was no need for a dangerous challenge like that.

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