The United States has been here several times before, but to reach the Women’s World Cup final is still a tremendous accomplishment.
It’s true more than ever of this World Cup, where new teams have stepped up and showed they belong on the big stage because they are better technically than their predecessors. Germany and Brazil yielded to Japan, Sweden and France, and China didn’t even make it to Germany.
The Americans should be proud just to get to the final, but they can’t and they won’t rest on their laurels. That’s why coach Pia Sundhage should consider making a couple of changes for Sunday’s match (1 p.m. ESPN) against Japan.
Sundhage should consider benching central midfielders Shannon Boxx and Carli Lloyd.
It would be a gutsy move to make two significant changes for the World Cup final.
But Boxx is 34 years old and has played a lot of minutes already this tournament. Sunday’s game would require her to play on short rest again. Sundhage has to wonder if Boxx can go 120 minutes against Japan if overtime is required.
Lori Lindsey started in place of Boxx in a 3-0 victory against Colombia in group play and did well. It’s time to turn to Lindsey again.
Lloyd, who turns 29 Saturday, had perhaps her best game of the tournament in Wednesday’s 3-1 semifinal win over France, until she subbed out in the second half, with Megan Rapinoe entering the game at left midfielder and Lauren Cheney moving to the middle.
France had tied the game and was threatening to take the lead when Lloyd went to the bench. The change not only stopped France’s momentum but turned it the Americans’ way, leading to their final two goals. It’s a change that should have been made against Brazil, when Lloyd had probably her worst game of the tournament.
With Cheney and Lindsey in the center and Rapinoe and Heather O’Reilly on the wings, the United States will be able to possess the ball better, and that will be especially important against Japan.
Boxx and Lloyd are reliable veterans with more than 250 caps combined. Benching them in favor of less experienced players is a risky move, but Rapinoe, Lindsey and Cheney are more dynamic and more skilled.
The United States can defeat Japan with Boxx and Lloyd, but it will do better with Rapinoe and Lindsey.
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