Abby Wambach OK with reserve role on U.S. team

Associated Press

Vancouver, British Columbia — Abby Wambach will do whatever it takes to win the Women's World Cup, even if that means she's coming off the bench.

Wambach came in as a second-half sub in the United States' scoreless draw against Sweden last Friday night, the team's second group-stage match. The second-ranked U.S. will conclude the stage tonight with a match against Nigeria.

"The World Cup for us, for our sport, is the biggest title you can win as a team," she said. "I've never had the opportunity to win one. I've come close.

"That's obviously a dream of mine to be able raise that trophy for my country."

Before Sweden, the career leading American scorer hadn't come off the bench in a World Cup match since 2003. This is the forward's fourth trip to the tournament.

A victory over Nigeria, ranked No. 33 in the world, would give the United States a first-place finish in Group D and send the team to Edmonton, Alberta, to open the knockout round next Monday.

After starting in the 3-1 tournament-opening victory of Australia, Wambach, 35, entered against Sweden in the 68th minute.

Less than 10 minutes later, she had one of the best U.S. scoring chances of the game, a header that Hedvig Lindahl popped up and over the crossbar.

Wambach believes if she had been playing on real grass, she would have scored on that header. This is the first World Cup played on artificial turf, which has been a contentious issue among many players, and especially Wambach.

Wambach led the way last year when a group of players filed a claim in Canada saying that putting the Women's World Cup on artificial turf amounted to gender discrimination — because the men's event never had been played on what some disdainfully call a "plastic pitch."

FIFA officials wouldn't bend on the issue, saying Canada's bid in 2011 — the only bid in the end for this year's event — stipulated the tournament be played on an artificial surface. The group that filed the claim eventually dropped it so they could focus on preparation for the event.

"I think the U.S. has more goals if we're on grass," she said.