USWNT set for final Women’s World Cup prep run
With less than five weeks left until it begins defense of its FIFA Women’s World Cup championship, the United States Women’s National Team gets one last look at international competition with a two-week stretch of three friendlies.
Up first is a Mother’s Day tilt with South Africa at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Set for 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, the match will be followed by a game with New Zealand next Thursday in St. Louis.
The Send-Off Series — a Sunday matinee with Mexico in Harrison, N.J., on May 26 — will be the USWNT’s final contest before the World Cup.
The matches will also be the USWNT’s first since head coach Jill Ellis named the 23-player roster for the WWC on May 1. Nearly half the team — 11 players — will be making their World Cup debuts. Five players will be playing in their second World Cup, six will be playing in their third and forward Carli Lloyd (2015 World Cup Golden Ball winner) is making her fourth appearance.
With a combined 94 World Cup appearances represented on the roster, experience was a key in building the squad for Ellis, as was having players who can play multiple positions.
“That’s the kind of level of depth and versatility that you have to go through in these moments,” Ellis told reporters on a conference call after announcing the roster. “I think when I (finalized the roster), things really started to fall into place when you weigh in putting a player in with 10 minutes left in a game, and they know their role on a set piece, and the moment doesn’t get too big for them. You can’t buy that experience.”
Lloyd and fellow forwards Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are the co-captains. Morgan and Rapinoe will be playing in their third World Cups.
The roster announcement also contained some surprises in the eyes of many soccer pundits, perhaps most notably the inclusion of defender Ali Krieger and midfielders Morgan Brian and Allie Long. Krieger, a veteran of two World Cups, has not had a national-team cap in two years. Brian, appearing in her second World Cup, and newbie Long were viewed as at risk of missing the team due to fitness issues in recent months.
“Allie Long and Morgan (Bryan) have been battling some injuries over the past I’d say three, four months,” Ellis said during the conference call. “I’d say part of it was looking at which way those players were trending in terms of return to fitness, return to play.”
Lloyd, 36, and Morgan, 29, have done plenty of damage since helping the U.S. win in Canada four years ago, each joining the 100-goal club in the years since. They are the fifth and sixth players to score 100 international goals for the USWNT. Lloyd’s 107 goals currently have her tied for fourth with legend Michelle Akers.
Abby Wambach is the all-time leader with 184 goals.
Morgan is the third American woman to reach 100 international goals before her 30th birthday, joining Mia Hamm and Wambach.
As for the team, the U.S. enters this final stretch run of World Cup preparation on an amazing run. The Americans are 4-0-2 since a 3-1 setback to France on Jan. 19 and are 29-1-5 since July 27, 2017. Prior to wins in April friendlies against Belgium (6-0) and Australia (5-3), the USWNT finished second in the SheBelieves Cup, a four-team tournament held in the U.S.
After back-to-back 2-2 draws against Japan on Feb. 27 and England on March 2, the Americans topped Brazil 1-0 in Tampa, Fla., on March 5 to finish the tournament at 1-0-2, good for five points. England won the tournament with a 2-0-1 record and seven points.
All four teams are currently ranked in the top 10 of the FIFA world rankings, with the U.S. at No. 1.
Sunday’s opponent, South Africa, is ranked 49th. New Zealand is ranked 19th, and Mexico is 26th.
The Women’s World Cup begins June 7 with host France playing South Korea. The championship will be played a month later at Lyon Olympic Stadium in Lyon.
The U.S. opens play June 11 against Thailand in Reims followed by matches with Chile (June 16, Paris) and Sweden (June 20, Le Havre) to round out group play.
USWNT upcoming friendlies
May 12: vs. South Africa, 4:30 p.m. ET (Santa Clara, Calif.)
May 16: vs. New Zealand, 8 p.m. ET (St. Louis)
May 26: vs. Mexico, 11:30 a.m. ET (Harrison, N.J.)
USWNT Women’s World Cup schedule
June 11: vs. Thailand, 3 p.m. ET (Reims, France)
June 16: vs. Chile, noon ET (Paris)
June 20: vs. Sweden, 3 p.m. ET (Le Havre, France)
USWNT Womens World Cup roster (can change until May 24)
Goalkeepers (3): Adrianna Franch*, Ashlyn Harris**, Alyssa Naeher**
Defenders (7): Abby Dahlkemper*, Tierna Davidson*, Crystal Dunn*, Ali Krieger***, Kelley O’Hara***, Becky Sauerbrunn***, Emily Sonnett*
Midfielders (6): Morgan Brian**, Julie Ertz**, Lindsey Horan*, Rose Lavelle*, Allie Long*, Samantha Mewis*
Forwards (7): Tobin Heath***, Carli Lloyd****, Jessica McDonald*, Alex Morgan***, Christen Press**, Mallory Pugh*, Megan Rapinoe***
* First Women’s World Cup
** Second Women’s World Cup
*** Third Women’s World Cup
**** Fourth Women’s World Cup
–Field Level Media