Veterans still have future roles for USWNT

Abby Wambach
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Saturday’s 1-1 draw in Chicago between Germany and the United States took 45 minutes to open up, but the second half finally looked like the world-class match-up it was supposed to be. That second half energy should continue in Tuesday’s rematch in Hartford (live on NBC Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. ET) now that these teams have become reacquainted.

On paper, Saturday’s result was a good one for the world’s two top-ranked teams, but as Richard Farley pointed out on Saturday, the U.S. will walk away from this pair of friendlies with mixed feelings, regardless.

Interim coach Jill Ellis will not be the next permanent U.S. coach. Whoever is the next U.S. coach (there seem to be some front-runners, but the process has been pretty tight-lipped) will have to develop talent that will be relied upon at the 2015 Women’s World Cup – the next time the U.S. women really have to care about a result.

(MORE: Favorites emerging to replace Pia Sundhage as next U.S. coach)

But for all this talk about overhauling the group (runners-up in the 2011 World Cup and gold medalists at the 2012 Olympics, mind you) with new faces, top veteran players don’t seem to be going anywhere. Part of that is because some ‘veterans’ of the team still have plenty in the tank (like 27-year-old Heather O’Reilly and 30-year-old Carli Lloyd).

Whether or not specific players will continue to feature in the team depends so greatly on the coach that at this stage it’s wildly speculative to suggest that any would get pushed out. Here are how things look for the four oldest players from the 2012 Olympic roster:

Christie Rampone (37-year-old defender) – The team’s most senior player. Rampone has 270 caps and has not shown a sign of losing a step. She is the rock of the back line and the team’s most consistent defender. It might seem crazy to think that the U.S. captain could still be a mainstay in the line-up at the 2015 World Cup when she would be 40 years old, but Rampone is known for impressive feats, like when she led Sky Blue FC to a Women’s Professional Soccer championship in 2009 as player-coach…while pregnant. She said she plans to play at least through 2013.

Abby Wambach (32-year-old forward) – Much like Rampone, expect Wambach to play until she absolutely can no longer walk. I’ve heard an unusual amount of cynicism from fans about Wambach, which is ridiculous. Sure, young forwards Sydney Leroux and Christen Press need minutes, but their time will come. Wambach (22 goals) and Alex Morgan (24 goals) have combined for the second-most prolific calendar year of goal scoring in U.S. history. Their 46 combined tallies are nine short of the 1991 duo of Michelle Akers (39 goals) and Carin Jennings (16 goals). Tell me again – Why shouldn’t Wambach be a go-to player?

Shannon Boxx (35-year-old midfielder) – Whether or not Boxx continues to play seems to remain up in the air, but it will add to her already impressive resume as an elite midfielder who has battled lupus, chronic autoimmune disease, since 2007. Keeping her place in the team will be extra challenging for Boxx due to the large crop of young central midfielders waiting in the wings and most U.S. coaching candidates sounding eager to develop new midfield talent. A very long list of central midfielders are anxious for a look and need regular training time.

Heather Mitts (34-year-old defender) – London was going to be the end of the road for Mitts, which she made clear leading into the 2012 Olympics. However, it seems she may have had a change of heart  she recently tweeted that she is unsure of what to do next. The outside back position has been a work in progress for the last two years. It’s a position where a new coach will likely use the next three years to develop young players for 2015.