USWNT head coach Jill Ellis has yet to lose as boss of her country, but whether she’ll be a winner is not the question pervading the 2014 CONCACAF Championship as it begins Wednesday night against Trinidad and Tobago.
Nope. The States are going to win their group and, with Canada not competing in the tournament as 2015 World Cup hosts, they are going to win the tournament.
How they do it is another thing.
There have been plenty of times in USWNT history that they were the unquestioned dominators; Not only did the American Ladies win, but they ran roughshod over the competition.
It hasn’t been terribly different in recent months; Ellis has overseen wins over China, France, Mexico and Switzerland, as well as ties against the French and Canada. She’s 6-0-3 in this stint as boss.
But the States, you may recall, did not win automatic qualification through CONCACAF for the 2011 World Cup. After 5-0, 9-0 and 4-0 wins in the group stage, they fell 2-1 to Mexico in the semifinal and needed to beat Italy in an intercontinental playoff to get by.
So what will it be this time around, ladies? From the Associated Press:
“We’ve talked about it being a journey. We know our destination,” Ellis said, “and what I’ve tried to convince them now is it’s the steps in between. It’s the path that’s the most important thing. We all want to be on the gold-medal stand at the end. For me, it’s going to be about our preparation to hit that big stage at our peak performance.”
Beginning with Trinidad and Tobago, the American team will play three games in six days spanning three cities. Guatemala awaits Friday in Chicago, followed by Haiti on Monday night in Washington, D.C. The semifinals of the regional qualifying tournament are in Philadelphia on Oct. 24, with the championship match two days later.
“I think what people will end up seeing from now until the end of this tournament is we have, no joke, two starting teams in our roster,” forward Abby Wambach said, “and both teams would probably vie for winning a world championship. And I think unfortunately for Jill and our coaching staff, it makes it difficult for them to make decisions.”
The question is whether that statement from Wambach, unquestioned in the past, is really true. The States are powerful, but are they going to cruise? Will they dominate, sending the message that US women’s soccer is the favorite for 2015? After all, the 2010 title loss to Japan was the States first World Cup final in three tournaments, and championship No. 3 has now been waiting for 15 years…