ROCHESTER, NY — It would’ve been great for both FIFA and attendees here at Sahlen’s Stadium if the United States women’s national team dusted off Mexico 8-0 again, as they did at Rio Tinto last weekend.
Instead, awkward bounces made a disorganized El Tri look awful and the high-powered USWNT look pedestrian in a 4-0 decision on Thursday night.
And if you think the States weren’t focused after the blowout, they want you to think again. It’s the turf, duh.
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“Tonight we could’ve finished a few more chances, but maybe on a different surface it goes in,” Wambach said. “FIFA is probably trying to stall a little bit at this point to hopefully make this issue go away. They think that we’re probably not very serious but we are, we’re ready to go to litigation.
“At the end of the day if you were to look at both of these games and see the difference in the quality of play, you would very vehemently see the difference in the game at Salt Lake and game here. The ball is bouncing here, players can’t get good touches on the ball.”
And she’s right, at least from tonight’s appearances. Mexico may not be a tour-de-force, but tonight they looked like a high school varsity team (at best). The States poured forth with chances and danger, but Alex Morgan specifically had to fight a bouncing ball.
“Obviously tonight the surface was not ideal, it was a little bit tough,” said Amy Rodriguez. “The ball was bouncing and we obviously played a lot different. Hopefully going into next summer we’ll have the turf issue resolved. We’d love to play on real grass and hopefully we can play the best soccer on that as well.”
Her head coach is on her side as well.
“Ultimately the game is meant to played on grass,” said Jill Ellis. “It’s a different game when you play on turf. The bounce is different and the physical game is different. I let them have their voice and I’m fine with that.”
It took the focus away from Abby Wambach’s return home. The main entrance into the stadium was renamed “Wambach Way”, and there’s a chance that — outside of a testimonial — Thursday was the last time Wambach will wear the US shirt in her hometown… although she played it down.
“Any time I get to put the shirt on, any time the crest goes across my heart, that’s an opportunity I’ve never had before,” Wambach said. “It’s something I’ve never taken for granted, which is why I’ve had such a long career. Whether it’s in Rochester, which I love, my whole family’s sitting over there, or not. It’s a privilege, a responsibility and an honor to put on this jersey. Moving forward towards my retirement, hopefully I get at least another game here with the jersey on, you never know. But at the end of the day, our sites are set on next summer.”
The States next play October 15, when they kick off World Cup qualifying’s group stage against Trinidad and Tobago.