Well, we're finally here. As with all major tournaments, it feels like we've been building up to this World Cup for many moons, but tonight's the night the U.S. women's national team really, truly begin their road towards a third trophy.
Don't expect a thrashing in this one a la Germany vs. Côte d'Ivoire yesterday (10-0), or even Norway vs. Thailand (4-0)—the USWNT are in one of the tougher groups in this tournament with Australia, Sweden, and Nigeria. A Group of Death, if you will. I think Sweden are the biggest test (hi, Pia Sundhage, nice to see you again), but Australia present a challenge, too.
So buckle up, people. Whatever ride the USWNT take us on this summer, it's going to be interesting, and it starts now.
Kickoff time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Winnipeg Stadium (Winnipeg, Canada)
TV/Streaming: Fox Sports 1 and NBC Universo are your television options; Fox Sports Go for streaming
Projected lineup: I've spent what feels like ten thousand years (maybe it's been more like "a few months," who can say, really) complaining about Jill Ellis' unpredictable, and sometimes downright weird, lineups. I've spent a lot of time saying that at some point, she'll have to settle on something for the World Cup, or at least, I (perhaps many of us, perhaps you) hoped she would settle on something—and that that something would make sense. Well, I guess it's time to see where we've ended up.
Hope Solo starts in goal, that much is true. The back line seems pretty set—look for Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Meghan Klingenberg. Ellis seems to have finally understood that Carli Lloyd belongs in the center of midfield, so that's where she'll be, along with Lauren Holiday (who doesn't really belong as a defensive midfielder, but we can't have it all, evidently). On the wings, I'll say we have Megan Rapinoe and Morgan Brian, but Christen Press is a strong possibility in there.
Up top, I'll go for Abby Wambach and Sydney Leroux. There's been a lot of talk around Alex Morgan, that she's training, that she's ready, etc., but I can't imagine she's at all fit to start. Come on as a sub, maybe (and hey, you could do a whole lot worse than Morgan coming off your bench). So, Wambach and Leroux it is, for me. Perhaps we see Press in a forward role, though, if Ellis wants to start her and doesn't do it in midfield.
Match previews and recommended reading: Start with the SB Nation guide to the World Cup if you haven't already. Move on to some tournament previews from Fox Sports and The Washington Times. Move on to this discussion of the USWNT's front line, this profile of Morgan Brian, and this update to the seemingly never-ending Hope Solo saga. End with this preview of the Australia game.
Prediction: 2-1 to the U.S. Goals from Wambach and, hell, Johnston because why not.
What are you drinking? Will be picking something up after work. Hard to say what it'll be, so I leave you all shrouded in mystery. Tell me what you're drinking, how about that.
This is your spot for pre-, in-, and post-game discussion.