22013_wambachsermanni_isi_uswntjd0213134054 John Dorton//isiphotos.com

Soccer Success? Business as Usual for the USWNT

The United States men's national team is showing a solid run of form recently, but that's par for the course for the women. Still, Maura Gladys wonders if Tom Sermanni's troops are peaking too soon.
BY Maura Gladys Posted
June 13, 2013
12:11 PM
You feel that, men's national team fans? That strange, oddly calming feeling as Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey lay off 1-2 passes to each other? That surge of optimism as Jozy Altidore connects on Fabian Johnson’s cross and Eddie Johnson slips a shot around Jaime Penedo? That’s called confidence. Now, multiply those feelings by 10 and you get a feeling of what it’s like to support the U.S. women’s team game in and game out.

Besides winning a World Cup or Olympic medal, it doesn’t get much better for the U.S. women than right now. They are riding as high as their male counterparts, rounding out what’s left of their 2013 campaign, which has been an overwhelming success.

The U.S. only has two more scheduled games for 2013, though they might tack on a couple for later in the year. The first leg of their two-game series with South Korea is on Saturday in Gillette Stadium.

South Korea will offer a unique challenge for the Americans. A young squad with no player over 30, the Taegeuk Ladies have improved greatly within the last decade, rising to 16th in the world. They play a disciplined, patient, tactical game with a lot of young talent. That’s not to say that the U.S. should have serious trouble. They have a dominant history against South Korea, building a 5-0-1 record and outscoring them 22-2.

The U.S.'s Jozy Altidore, Abby Wambach—or is Altidore a Wambach in the making?—enters the series three goals short of tying Mia Hamm’s all-time goal scoring record, and if the team makes a conscious decision to look for Wambach, she could break it. Unlike Altidore, who is just finding his scoring form, Wambach has delivered year in and year out.

Against South Korea, Lauren Cheney and Tobin Heath have the opportunity to show they can be the Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey of the women’s squad. Cheney has a good start. Like Bradley, she has the vision and skill to make the perfect pass at the right time to put her teammates in the best position to score. Heath has the moves like Dempsey, and speed for days. If she keeps progressing, the goals will come and she will develop into as feared of an attacking presence as the Tottenham Texan.

One thing the Americans don’t have to worry about at the present moment is defense. Jurgen Klinsman is converting midfielders into defenders to bolster an inexperienced and depleted defense. But former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage started that trend a year ago. Now, the women’s defense has tremendous depth, skill, and versatility, and has quietly excelled all year. What once seemed like the weakest part of the team has slowly filled in its cracks and mended its breaks. It's a concrete wall now.

So, both the U.S. men and women are riding high waves of momentum. The men’s streak will carry them to next summer’s World Cup, giving them enough time to qualify with a bang, take a break, then make some tweaks before the World Cup.

The women’s team, however, have a long period of stagnation ahead of them before World Cup qualifying even starts. Reaching Canada 2015 isn't given for the U.S. It took a little-known sub by the name of Alex Morgan to rescue the U.S. in 2010 when they were in danger of pulling an "England at the 2008 Euros." Could the women be benefitting from the jolt of a new manager and peaking too early? Maybe. But all they can focus on right now is maintaining focus and not getting injured. If the United States’ only injury problems are a healing Hope Solo and a banged up Kelley O’Hara, that is a huge plus.

Maura Gladys, a featured ASN columnist, works in production for KICKTV. She also runs the goalkeeping blog All You Need Is Glove.

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