- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Abby Wambach’s stellar play was too hard to ignore.

Yesterday U.S. women’s national team coach April Heinrichs named Wambach and Washington Freedom teammates Mia Hamm and Siri Mullinix to her 20-player roster for next month’s Women’s World Cup.

With four appearances in the 13 national team matches this year, Wambach’s inclusion was not a given.

But after the 23-year-old finished the season as the Women’s United Soccer Association’s second-leading goal scorer with 13 and was named the Founders Cup MVP on Sunday for a two-goal performance that included the game-winner in overtime, Heinrichs had little choice but to include her.

“I wouldn’t say Abby was not going to be on this team, and I wouldn’t say Abby was a surprise to me, either,” Heinrichs said. “Abby is a marvelous talent. What’s happened is that Abby’s commitment has fluctuated over the years: her commitment to the game, her commitment to being fit year-round and her commitment to training and being competitive. Sometimes she even has a protection mechanism to act if it doesn’t matter to her. The last two or three months you can see that Abby can dominate. In April and May, she was coming in and doing well but was afraid to compete. Her competitiveness coming in was on the lower level.”

Wambach is one of five forwards Heinrichs named, joining Hamm, Tiffeny Milbrett, Cindy Parlow and Shannon MacMillian. MacMillian, who tore her ACL in May, has made a remarkable recovery in a short time.

“Shannon’s recovery is the closest thing to a miracle that we’ll see in the world of soccer,” Heinrichs said. “Shannon has the ability to change directions, strike the ball and score goals. It’s a tribute to her work ethic.”

With 26 days before the United States opens World Cup play against powerful Sweden at RFK Stadium, Heinrichs selected five players — Hamm, midfielders Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly, and defenders Joy Fawcett and Brandi Chastain — who were her teammates on the first U.S. Women’s World Cup team in 1991.

“There will never be another generation like these five players,” Heinrichs said.

Hamm, the world’s all-time leading goal scorer with 140; Lilly, the world’s all-time appearance leader with 253 caps; and Foudy have played in all 18 U.S. World Cup matches. Hamm, Lilly, Foudy and Fawcett will play in their fourth World Cup — and most likely their last. Chastain spent two years away from the national team and did not compete in the 1995 World Cup in Sweden.

Overall, Heinrichs selected 12 players who were on the United States’ 1999 Cup team, with seven projected starters over 30. The other eight players — midfielder Shannon Boxx, defender Kylie Bivens, midfielder Angela Hucles, defender Cat Reddick, defender Danielle Slaton, midfielder Aly Wagner, Mullinix and Wambach — are making their World Cup debuts.

The 21-year-old Reddick, who is a senior at North Carolina, is the youngest member and only amateur on the U.S. roster. Reddick will miss the first month and a half of her college season while on national team duty.

In terms of positional breakdown, Heinrichs chose two goalkeepers, Mullinix and Briana Scurry; seven defenders; six midfielders; and five forwards. Among the WUSA clubs, the San Diego Spirit placed the most on the roster with four. The Atlanta Beat, Boston Breakers, New York Power and Freedom each had three players chosen.

Wambach’s inclusion was made possible when Heinrichs did not select injured 19-year-old forward Heather O’Reilly (10 caps) or forward Lindsay Tarpley (seven caps), both of whom accumulated more appearances this year than Wambach.

“We’ve been monitoring Abby closely,” Heinrichs said. “She played on the first under-16 team I coached. Question is, would she commit herself? The WUSA has hardened her. When you’re playing next to Mia, you can’t lower your standards. Mia has sort of made Abby Wambach her pet project. She has work to do. Her sense of her role on the team is accurate. She can help us.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide