Wambach Reserves the Right to Sit Out NWSL Season to Focus on World Cup

U.S. Women’s National Team star forward Abby Wambach announced on Wednesday she will not play for the Western New York Flash this season so she can focus for this summer’s World Cup.

As the all-time women’s international leading scorer, Wambach reserves the right to decide what is best for her body. However, the timing of her decision puts the WNY Flash in a tough position as the National Women’s Soccer League begins play April 10.wambach

Aaran Lines, coach of the WNY Flash, feels U.S, Soccer is using a double-standard in regard to Wambach sitting out the NWSL season, but being allowed to play in the World Cup. Would one of the league’s brightest American stars like Alex Morgan, Sydney LeRoux, Christen Press, and Lauren Holiday be allowed to sit out to mentally and physically prepare for the World Cup? Probably not, but all are much younger than Wambach.

Lines is not happy about Wambach’s decision and had this to say to ESPNW .

“What I don’t really understand is how can a player make that decision to not play at club level, and still be able to play for her country? If you don’t play for club in the men’s game, you don’t get the opportunity to play for country, do you? We need to head in that direction of the men’s game.”

I understand where Lines, a former New Zealand international, is coming from in regards to Abby being given special treatment. The NWSL is the feeder pattern for the U.S. Women’s National Team. If Wambach is not playing, what gives U.S. Women’s National Team coach Jill Ellis the right to bring Wambach into training camp which will help determine the final 23 player roster that heads to Canada this summer for the World Cup?

I think the answer to my question is quite simple. 178 international goals for Wambach against 30 different countries. She knows how to put the ball in the back of the old onion bag and the pounding her 34 year-old body has taken over the years has finally caught up with Wambach.

If recent matches in the Algarve Cup are any indication of Wambach’s place on the national team, she is no longer a 90 minute player. A younger generation of stars with fresh legs such as Morgan, Press, and LeRoux were on the pitch to start and play the majority of minutes in most games. These players were successful at scoring goals themselves as Wambach came off the bench late in most matches.

Could Wambach fear she may be left off this year’s World Cup squad? It happened to U.S. Men’s National Team legend Landon Donovan last summer so why can’t it happen to her? I think Wambach wants to prove to Ellis that she will be match fit and ready to help the U.S. team in any way possible.

According to Jeff Carlisle who covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPNsoccernet, Wambach had this to say when questioned about her decision to bypass the upcoming NWSL season.

 “At this stage of my career, I know what I need to prepare mentally and physically for this   summer. My sole focus is to help bring a World Cup back to the U.S.”

Winning the World Cup is the only accolade left to check off Wambach’s list of accomplishments. She has won championships at every level dating back to high school and including the 2004 Olympics. I think Wambach has always dreamed of hanging up her boots after winning the 2015 World Cup.

Wambach has the blessing of Ellis who had this to say about Wambach wanting to focus solely on preparing for the 2015 World Cup.

“Abby made a personal decision to do what she feels is best for her to be mentally and physically prepared for the World Cup,” Ellis’ statement said. “The NWSL provides a beneficial environment for our players, but her situation is unique and I understand and respect her thought process. The support and cooperation by the NWSL owners and coaches has helped us ensure we are preparing for the World Cup in the best way possible.”

When asked if Wambach would consider returning to the Flash after the World Cup to finish out the NWSL season, she didn’t want to take time away from a deserving player who had been there all season. Very classy.

With the impact Wambach has made on the game of soccer and how she carried the torch left when veterans like Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and Kristine Lilly retired, she deserves to do what is best for her. Wambach has always put her career ahead of herself which is why she did not get married to wife Sarah Huffman until early 2014. She wants to start a family and finally realizes it is alright to put herself before her career.

It’s important that people understand that it’s not like I’m just walking away and washing my hands clean of this professional soccer thing. I still want to commit and help the league grow as much as possible. But, there’s a time in a player’s career when they get to start making decisions for themselves. I think I’m at that point in my career where I get to not ‘take one for the team,’ that sort of thing. I want to just be happy and ride out the rest of my career as happy as I possibly can.”

Wambach feels badly for upsetting Lines, WNY Flash team owner Joe Sahlen, and her teammates, but she truly knows this is the best decision for her.

We must all respect Wambach’s decision even if we do not like it. She is always fun to watch, but hopefully having the time to truly mentally and physically prepare herself for the World Cup will pay dividends with the U.S. winning the trophy for the first time since 1999 when Wambach was entering her sophomore year at the University of Florida.

And that’s…as I see it!

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