The United States survived what was supposed to be their toughest game at the World Cup, but today’s semifinal against England could be just as daunting. These teams played to a 2-2 draw earlier this year, and the Three Lionesses have posted four straight shutout wins since giving up the only goal they’ve conceded in this tournament in their 2-1 opening victory against Scotland. In other words, the USWNT is up against one of the best teams in the world today.
With Lucy Bronze a favorite for the Golden Ball and Ellen White pursuing the Golden Boot, England has produced plenty of chances despite their defensive record. It will be interesting to see whether Jill Ellis opts for a similar strategy as she did against France, relying on a furious early attack to gain a lead before shifting immediately into a defensive outlook. All that’s on the line is a spot in the World Cup final five days from now.
Key player: Crystal Dunn
There was a weirdly quick cycle of takes during the quarterfinal concerning Dunn’s play at left back. The initial position was that she was having a terrible game, followed shortly thereafter by a backlash saying that well actually she was having a great game. The reality was that Dunn came up with some big last-ditch tackles, but also ended up being too narrow on a regular basis, turning what could have been straightforward defensive moments into openings that required going to ground and hoping to only get the ball. Kadidiatou Diani still had several chances to make a real impact on the game despite Dunn’s emergency defending, but the French attacker couldn’t produce a final ball all night.
Today, the job is even more difficult. Winger Nikita Parris has been sharper than Diani, and England adds in the threat of right back Lucy Bronze, who has probably been the best player in the entire tournament. For Dunn, that yard or two she was giving away to stay connected with Becky Sauerbrunn can’t be given up, because Bronze and Parris are not going to throw their chances away if given room to operate.
If Dunn produces the performance certain segments of the media said she did against France, the USWNT is probably going to win this game.
Location: Parc Olympique Lyonnais (Décines-Charpieu)
Kickoff time: 3:00pm Eastern
Morgan is still playing with some kind of injury (though she was great in the last half-hour against France), and Horan’s absence from the starting lineup is still beyond explanation, but Ellis appears committed to this team. Unless someone got hurt in training, this is the lineup she’s going to roll out.
Projected England starting 11: (4231) - Karen Bardsley; Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Millie Bright, Demi Stokes; Keira Walsh, Jill Scott; Nikita Parris, Fran Kirby, Toni Duggan; Ellen White
The major spot up for grabs is at left back, where Stokes and Alex Greenwood both have an argument to start. There are calls for Beth Mead to replace Duggan on the left side of midfield, but most likely Phil Neville will avoid changing his quarterfinal lineup.
Available TV: Fox, Telemundo
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Here are your other options: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo
What are you drinking?: 3pm on a Tuesday is normally a second round of coffee sort of time for me anyway, so iced coffee or cold brew is a must.
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