Pia Sundhage’s at it again. Just a few days after starting Lauren Cheney over Megan Rapinoe, she’s mulling another move.
On Thursday morning she announced that she is considering swapping out either Shannon Boxx or Carli Lloyd in favor of the Philadelphia Independence’s Lori Lindsey at center mid against Colombia in the USWNT’s second group stage match (Saturday at 11:30am on ESPN).
It’s an interesting move, and not one that was necessarily expected.
Here’s a breakdown of what the (potential) move means for the lineup and why it happened.
What It Means
Sidelining Boxx means that the lineup will be missing the scrappy, aggressive play and mentality that Boxx brings to the squad. It will also mean a downgrade in height, as Boxx has three inches on the 5’5” Lindsey. However, Boxx looked especially weary against North Korea, so Lindsey’s presence might provide an extra spark. If Sundhage starts Lindsey over Carli Lloyd, the central midfield will take on a more defensive shape. Lindsey is very good at distributing the ball and controlling the pace of the midfield, but she’s not as dynamic of a creator as Lloyd, and doesn’t push to the goal as much.
Why Did It Happen
The reasoning behind the swap could be any number of things, but here’s four plausible reasons why Sundhage thinks the move makes sense.
Reason 1: Resting a starter
Colombia is not the United States’ strongest opponent, and Sundhage has said that if she were going to experiment, it would be during this game. Starting Lindsey would not only give Boxx/Lloyd a break, it would allow Lindsey to get valuable playing time that could prepare her for later games. By having Boxx/Lloyd on the sideline, that also automatically strengthens the bench, in case Lindsey struggles.
Reason 2: Rewarding good training
Sundhage is known for rewarding players who show promise in training, as evidenced by the Lauren Cheney move. This could be Sundhage’s way of letting someone who has done well in practice and training get a well-earned start. Also, according to Tony DiCicco, who mentioned it while doing color for the Canada-France game yesterday, Lindsey was one of the bright spots in the United States’ closed door scrimmage to Norway, where the US lost 3-1.
Reason 3: Going with the gut
Following the success of the Lauren Cheney move, Sundhage could feel more confident about making a riskier switch. She’s is a master at managing her roster, and often makes switches based on her instincts and what feels right among the team. Starting Cheney over Megan Rapinoe didn’t make a lot of sense at first, but proved to pay off in the end. Sundhage knows her squad better than anyone, so it could be the same case here.
Reason 4: The Lindsey/Wambach connection
Starting Lindsey could also be an indirect attempt to help Abby Wambach regain her scoring prowess. Slump is too strong a word for Wambach, and it’s not that she hasn’t looked sharp, but she just hasn’t found the back of the net lately. Wambach and Lindsey played together for several years with the Washington Freedom, and did well to find each other there. That connection might shine through on a world stage as well.
It looks like for the second time in a row, Pia Sundhage’s lineup change will make her look pretty good. Starting Lindsey allows one of her starters to rest, and also gives her important game exposure. Colombia is a young, inexperienced squad, so no matter who starts, they should succeed, and in doing so, strengthen the squad’s depth and overall quality.