The United States is just under three months away from kicking off the 2019 World Cup, and they could scarcely ask for better preparation than this year’s SheBelieves Cup field. Today’s match against Japan will follow a tournament opener between England and Brazil, with all four teams expected to make it into the knockout round this summer. For the USWNT, a game against the Nadeshiko commonly provides a clash in styles, with the more direct, athletic American side going up against a more technical and more methodical Japan.
To lift the World Cup, the U.S. will have to beat teams that approach the game in a fundamentally different way, and they won’t find too many more talented teams that fit the bill than they will today.
Key player: Samantha Mewis
Lindsey Horan is not available to play due to injury, opening up a chance for the sorely underused Mewis to get back into the picture. Mewis isn’t the same kind of player as Horan, who ranges forward more often, and the role of the number eight probably isn’t the best use of Mewis within the 433 Jill Ellis uses (she’d fit in here more as a number six).
However, Mewis is given more freedom with the North Carolina Courage, and when she’s on her game with NC she can be unstoppable. That’s the kind of performance she has to bring to the table during this tournament, because once Horan comes back, Ellis will surely restore her to the lineup. Mewis needs to do enough with this opportunity that Ellis considers some other moves (perhaps moving Julie Ertz back to center back, where she was during the last World Cup).
It won’t be easy, because Ellis seems to form very rigid ideas about players that almost never change, but that’s the task in front of Mewis. She’s one of the best players in the pool, and this is her opening.
Location: Talen Energy Stadium (Chester, PA)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
O’Hara has been out for a bit due to injury, and could well be limited to a substitute’s role. In that case, we could see Sonnett come in, but Jill Ellis recently looked at moving Dunn to right back and giving Davidson (who is very clearly not a fullback) some time at left back. Short could also be brought in if a more natural fit is preferred.
As for the Washington Spirit’s trio, Lavelle appears to be first-choice at this point, while Pugh is putting up a real fight to start on the right wing. Sullivan has a chance at getting onto the field and bolstering her place within the USWNT set-up after Danielle Colaprico had to withdraw due to injury.
Available TV: Fox Sports 1
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
we our friends have to say about it?: Stars and Stripes FC has a preview that includes the full roster for both the U.S. and Japan.
What are you drinking?: I will be in the press box, and it’s going to be about 35 degrees all game long, so I’m probably going to be sticking with coffee the whole time.
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