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July 1, 2011
Rodriguez still looking for consistency with WNT

By Charles Cuttone
Executive Editor

The U.S. WNT’s fortunes at the Women’s World Cup might well hinge on how well Amy Rodriguez clicks with fellow striker Abby Wambach.
The U.S. WNT’s fortunes at the Women’s World Cup might well hinge on how well Amy Rodriguez clicks with fellow striker Abby Wambach.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Last season, only two players in women’s Professional Soccer scored more goals than Amy Rodriguez. One was the world’s best player, Marta. The other is now her linemate on the U.S. National Team, Abby Wambach.

In order for the U.S. team to go far in the Women’s World Cup, Rodriguez and Wambach are going to need to click. Saturday’s game against Colombia (11:30 am ET-ESPN) might be a good time for them to start.

Veteran defender Heather Mitts, who played with Rodriguez on the Philadelphia Independence last season and with the Boston Breakers the year before, thinks that is about to happen.

“We are finally seeing her (Wambach) and Amy Rodriguez really start to click,” Mitts said in an exclusive pre-World Cup interview. “This is exciting stuff. We have so many players that their confidence is showing on the field. It’s about coming together at the right time and peaking at the right time. I think we are definitely moving in the right direction.”

Rodriguez, who had a dozen goals in WPS last year, has not had anywhere near that kind of performance for the U.S. team, though it might be getting there. She has four goals in seven games this year, after notching seven in 17 games last year.

“Just from having played with her in Philadelphia and played with this team for the past couple of years, it’s kind of been one of those things where (in) Philly, she really performed in a way for her WPS team and then maybe she comes in here and we see flashes of brilliance, but we haven’t seen the same consistency,” said Mitts.

“I think a lot of it is her dynamic up top and feeling comfortable with her partner, and I think its taken a while, but I think those two are starting to be on the same page, and if that’s the case, I think we’re going to see a lot of goals during the World Cup.”

In the team’s first WWC game, a 2-0 win over North Korea, the scoring was left to a defender, Rachael Buehler, and a midfielder, Lauren Cheney. Wambach had a few looks, but Rodriguez was all but invisible.

Paul Riley, her coach with the Independence, who is credited with helping Rodriguez turn around her WPS Career after scoring only once for Boston in 2009, thinks he knows why Rodriguez has not been as much of a factor for the National Team.

“She’s not in front of goal enough at the national team level. She’s not around the net enough,” said Riley. “She needs to be around the net and needs to be in front of the goal.”

“We gear the training toward what she needs, towards her strengths. If you don’t do that, you lose forwards,” said Riley.

Most of the USA’s goals this year have come from midfielders. Wambach has only scored once, making her the only forward other than Rodriguez to find the net.

“She doesn’t have confidence in front of goal,” Riley said of Rodriguez, who has scored once in five appearance with the Independence this year.

Riley says he has seen a change in A-Rod’s approach to the games in the brief times she has been in Philly this year.

“The same thing when we got her from Boston. She wanted to play in the midfield,” Riley explained, noting what he told his star forward . “Stop trying to play with everybody. Get yourself forward. Just worry about making good runs across the back line and getting behind teams.”

With Rodriguez’ speed, that could be a key to the U.S. offense.

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