It's back to business for the United States women's national team tonight. After a mostly successful Victory Tour - give or take games being cancelled due to horrible field conditions - the USWNT has mostly made noise off the field thanks to the recent suit filed by US Soccer against their players association and the accidental revelation of personal information left in that filing.
Tonight, though, it's just about soccer. The USWNT faces Costa Rica in their first group stage game in CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament. Anything less than a win would be a shock, but that's not to say that Costa Rica is a pushover. They managed a huge upset during the World Cup in holding Spain to a 1-1 draw, and later pushed Brazil all the way before falling 1-0. They only ended up missing a knockout round spot by a single point. While the USWNT will be paying more attention to Mexico, overlooking an organized Costa Rican side featuring a game-breaker in Shirley Cruz would be a big mistake.
Key player: Christen Press
It's tempting to pick players like Crystal Dunn or Tobin Heath in games like this, where a gifted dribbler can break through the massed layers of what will likely be a bunkering opponent. However, the key for the US today is to be sharp in front of goal. The chances are probably going to come, but if they're wasted Costa Rica will start to believe they can spring an upset.
That's where Press comes in. Alex Morgan may still be the attacking star of a team that has seen Abby Wambach retire and Megan Rapinoe suffer a torn ACL, but Press has consistently shown better form for over a year now. She may not have Morgan's speed or strength, but her first touch, movement, passing, and finishing are all comfortably the best of any American forward right now. On a team built around Carli Lloyd - who is free to do whatever she damn well pleases - Press has shown an enthusiasm for looking to set others up as well. She's just as useful playing as Lloyd's assistant, so to speak, as she is leading the line and being the focal point of the attack.
Location: Toyota Stadium (Frisco, TX)
Kick-off time: 8:30pm Eastern
Available TV: None. CONCACAF waited too long to request broadcast windows. Good job, good effort.
Available streaming: NBC Sports Live Extra (English), NBC Deportes En Vivo Extra (Spanish). Note: NBC has lifted the paywall for this game, so click the link for NBC Sports Live Extra and watch the game whether or not NBCSN is part of your cable package.
Available radio: None
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.