London Olympics 2012: Who Will Lead the USWNT to Football Gold?

Jared DwyerCorrespondent IIIJuly 24, 2012

SANDY, UT - JUNE 30: The USA team poses for a picture before a game against Canada during the first half of the women's Olympic send-off soccer match June 30, 2012 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.  (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images

We all are familiar with the faces of Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, and, unless you have not looked at a TV, computer, or other mobile internet capable device,  Alex Morgan.

But which, if any, of these three stars will be most instrumental to propelling the US to a gold medal?

I argue, none of the above.  That is not to say they will not play major roles in deciding whether or not their teams ultimately win it all.  Rather, when it comes time to put the ball in the net or to hold the ball, there is no one more important to winning the gold than Megan Rapinoe.

The US Women’s National Team has top-flight talent at all positions – such as Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx, Lauren Cheney, and Carli Lloyd – which gives no wonder as to why the team is ranked No. 1 in the world and gold medal favorite.  But it is the sparky midfielder, Megan Rapinoe, that will serve as the catalyst to winning the gold.

Abby Wambach is the most dominant forward in all of women’s soccer.  I believe she has all the necessary tools to be successful if she ever decided to move to the MLS.  She is big, fast, strong, and can deliver as good a header as anyone – male or female.

But she's a forward.  And being so, she relies on someone else, many times Rapinoe, to get the ball in to her.  The same can be said about Alex Morgan.

That is not to discount the roles those two will play in the upcoming Olympics because in order to win we have to score goals.  And we all expect them to score – in bunches.  After all, they are two of the best in the world at what they do.

But no matter how talented, a forward needs someone else to get him\her the ball to be successful ( Messi and Ronaldo being the exceptions).

There is the sports cliché “Defense wins championships”, which brings attention to the keeper of the USWNT.  No matter what happens in a game Hope Solo is willing to accept any adoration or scrutiny that may come her way.  She is as thick-skinned as she is talented; which combined allows her to be the best keeper in women’s soccer.

But yet, she is the keeper – an important role no doubt, second only to forwards.  The play of a team’s keeper can, in some situations, more so determine the outcome of a match than any other position.

And in order to win we not only have to score goals, we also need to prevent goals.

Nevertheless, for this Olympics, the goals of the USWNT – both scored in match and set for the tournament –rests on the foot of a certain bleach-blonde midfielder.

As a midfielder she will be able have more ball possession time than other position on the pitch.  Her ability to create scoring chances for her teammates as well as herself makes her an important cog in the USWNT machine.

As talented as Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, and the rest of her midfield cohorts are, Megan Rapinoe’s ability to play the wing is second to none.

She has excellent ball control ability and can send a cross pass in better than any other female player in the world; rivaling the ability of some of the world’s best male footballers.  And while streaking down the pitch, if passing lanes do not open up, she has the ability to put the ball “in the back of the ol’ onion bag” as well.

Quite simply, Megan Rapinoe has game changing ability.

When the team needs a cross pass sent in so Abby Wambach can bury a header in the back of the net, who do they call upon?  Yep.

When they need someone to put the ball on a dime at the foot of the streaking Alex Morgan, who can deliver?  Yep.

The team is already favored to win the gold, but with Rapinoe on the wing the team can expect to fly home with an extra 412 grams of gold (silver and copper as well) hanging around their necks.