The United States women’s national team’s slate of friendlies continues tonight, as they’ll take on South Korea in New Orleans. It’s another game on synthetic turf for the USWNT (which is another stumble from US Soccer) and another game against an opponent that will likely be overmatched. However, with next year containing qualifying tournament for France 2019, each progressive game carries a bit more weight.
Key player: Mallory Pugh
As a Spirit site, and as folks just in need of someone to provide some entertainment in a soccer game, we’ll be keeping an eye on Pugh. Hopefully she puts on a show, because as we approach the qualifying tournament for France 2019, the pressure to perform will start to ramp up. The US roster is stacked with talented wide players, including an NWSL MVP candidate in Megan Rapinoe, a former MVP winner in Crystal Dunn, and there’s always the prospect of Christen Press being used wide (Jill Ellis is all about putting her best 11 players on the field and figuring out the details later).
Pugh’s rookie season was, strangely, both underrated and overrated depending on where you looked. On a team with sharper finishing, she’d have easily found herself with 4 or 5 assists to go with 6 goals, numbers that would be competitive with the USWNT field. However, to maintain a spot as a semi-regular starter as the World Cup drifts ever closer, she’s got to be consistent from game to game and even from minute to minute. Pugh’s tendency to shift into high gear in the final half hour for the Washington Spirit is a real asset, but it would be even better if she were able to find that level earlier.
Location: Mercedez-Benz Superdome (New Orleans, LA)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Per US Soccer, only 18 of this group of 20 will suit up, possibly in a sign that competition for places and a more “real game” atmosphere are going to become important points. We’ll find out when lineups are announced, but I suspect Jane Campbell and either Sullivan or Williams will end up in street clothes. Elsewhere, I think we’ll see Huerta get her first USWNT start, especially with Taylor Smith out due to an injury sustained moments into the NWSL championship last weekend.
Available TV: Fox Sports 1
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What are you drinking?: Might find my way to a margarita if the timing can be worked out.
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