Things have more or less gone according to plan for the USWNT. Sure, they might have expected to score another goal on New Zealand, and France controlled more of Saturday’s game than is ideal, but we’re still talking about 6 points and zero goals conceded. Today against Colombia, that really ought to become 9 points with no goals against. Even with the United States likely rotating new players in due to the grueling structure of this tournament, they will be heavily favored to win comfortably.
USA Projected Starting XI: Getting to Manaus required a 5 hour flight, and the weather will be as hot and muggy as a DC summer’s most brutal day. If the US wins Group G - and they will with anything better than a loss - they’ll have to play their quarterfinal game in Brasilia (a nearly 3 hour flight) on Friday.
So yeah, expect some player rotation. Hope Solo will carry on in goal, but there may be changes in front of her. Ali Krieger seems like a strong bet to start at right back, with one of Kelley O’Hara or Meghan Klingenberg on the left (and don’t be surprised if one of this pair replaces the other during the game). Becky Sauerbrunn will start at center back, and it seems likely that Whitney Engen will continue alongside her in an effort to preserve Julie Johnston (who was held out against France due to a groin strain) for the knockout rounds.
In the midfield, Morgan Brian’s hamstrings have been a problem all year long, so it would be no real shock to see Lindsey Horan start alongside Allie Long. Carli Lloyd will most likely get the nod ahead of them in the USWNT’s midfield triangle, but the wings are something of a mystery. Mallory Pugh didn’t play against France due to a minor knock, and Ellis may choose to rest her again. Crystal Dunn could well get a second straight start, or it could be an Ellis plan to keep rotating them all tournament long (which would ensure a fresh, talented right winger in every game).
On the left, if there’s a game for Megan Rapinoe to start in this tournament, this is the one. However, it’s hard to say that she is ready to play 45 minutes, as she has not appeared in a competitive game since tearing her ACL back in December. Tobin Heath certainly can’t play every game of the tournament, so we could possibly see Dunn and Pugh starting. Finally, it seems pretty likely that Christen Press will step in for Alex Morgan up top. Barring a suspension or injury, this is the last chance to give Morgan a rest.
As for subs, in an ideal world Ellis will be able to have O’Hara and Klingenberg split the game at left back, while also having Morgan come on for Lloyd after an hour or so (with Press moving back, most likely). If Rapinoe can’t start, she should at least be handed 20-30 minutes to build her fitness. However, substitute plans are made to be broken; hopefully Ellis isn’t forced to remove someone due to an injury.
Match Previews: Stars and Stripes FC has a comprehensive preview, including a mention of noted Abby Wambach puncher Lady Andrade. Our own preview looks at how the potential knockout round brackets will sort themselves (though as I write, Canada and Australia are astonishingly close to sending the whole tournament into chaos by possibly relegating Germany to 3rd place in Group F).
What Are You Drinking?: I’ll be keeping it simple for this one: Yuengling lager. Or maybe bourbon (Evan Williams Single Barrel) with ginger beer. But most likely, I will be too wiped out to put two ingredients together, so let’s assume it’ll just be the beer.
Prediction: Colombia is talking about resting a bunch of players, though there are suspicions that it’s just a tactic. It really shouldn’t matter, as the US won two April friendlies against this same team by a combined 10-0. Colombia is still theoretically alive in this tournament, though the scenario that sees them make the quarterfinals would require arguably the biggest upset in woso history being followed by another set of miracles in other games.
That isn’t going to happen. The US should stroll to a comfortable win, going up 2-0 within the first half hour on goals from Dunn and Press, and then Morgan will cap it off with a late goal from a Rapinoe assist. 3-0 USWNT.
This is the place to discuss tonight’s game. Hit the comments, we’ll make it a party.