Abby Wambach is becoming the "Shaq" of women's soccer. In the U.S. vs. Denmark match this weekend, Abby "posted up" just outside the 6 yard box. Then when Ally Wagner beat two defenders and crossed the ball in the air, one of Denmark's defenders jumped up to try to body-check Abby off the ball. The defender bounced off ineffectually like a rubber ball hitting a brick wall, while Abby calmly headed the ball into the net to tie the game.
And that brings me to my point: the future of women's soccer will be a game that is more physical. I don't mean "physical" in the sportscaster sense of "committing bad fouls," I just mean that size and strength will play as big a role as speed and fancy footwork. The U.S. will find it harder to succeed, not because they have gotten worse but because the rest of the world has caught up. With many of the traditional U.S. stars headed for retirement, the U.S. will need to rely on players like Abby Wambach, Ally Wagner, and Cat Reddick, and they will have to play tough. This weekend, they proved that they can.
The U.S. lost, 3-1, but the game seemed more even than the score. On a better day, Luckenbill might have saved the first goal, and the U.S. might have converted another chance.