The United States begins their pursuit of a fourth World Cup today with a Group F clash with Thailand. The USWNT is heavily favored to win this game, and to do so by several goals. The question is in the process: Are we talking about several goals from open play, or are we talking about relying too much on set pieces?
Key player: Tobin Heath
Thailand is going to do the smart thing and try to bunker. The best way to beat a bunker? Get your best dribblers the ball and let them go to work. The USWNT, fortunately, has probably the best dribbler on the planet, and you can bet that they’re going to do whatever they can to get Heath as many touches as possible in this one.
Heath’s threat is really two-fold. First and foremost, she’s a nightmare to defend, because whenever you think you’ve boxed her in, she can escape and leave your group of defenders in the dust. Or, let’s say you try to stop Heath but foul. Well, now you’re looking at a team that has Julie Ertz and Lindsey Horan as targets in the box, and Megan Rapinoe serving the ball in. That’s bad news!
Location: Stade Auguste-Delaune (Reims)
Kickoff time: 3:00pm Eastern
The starting lineup has been more or less assured for some time now. The only question mark is whether Mewis or Lavelle will be the third member of the midfield trio, as Mewis has recently been in good goalscoring form. The question for this game is whether Jill Ellis sees the way forward in this one breaking the Thai bunker (which means Lavelle) or if it’ll be set pieces (which means Mewis). Still, Ellis generally sticks to her guns even when form says otherwise, and that means Lavelle.
Now, can reasonable people ask whether rotation with an eye on the tougher games down the road would be smart? Yes, they can! But in all likelihood, Ellis will roll with her first-choice team here, maybe rotate one or two players against Chile, and then go back to her top team for Sweden and every game afterward. It’s just not her style to do anything else.
Available TV: Fox, Telemundo
Available streaming: If you subscribe to fuboTV via this link, your friends at B&RU get some cash!
Here are your other options: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
Recommended reading: Our USWNT preview is focused on the team’s newcomers, while for Thailand, our preview points out that this game is mostly damage control ahead of a game against Chile that will probably determine whether they can squeak into the round of 16. You should also read this ranking of which players are the most vital to American success in this tournament.
What are you drinking?: Probably some iced tea, but it could end up being water.
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