It’s been over eight months, but the USWNT is finally back in action today, when they’ll face a 2019 World Cup rematch with the Netherlands. The United States would normally be favored, even when heading across the Atlantic, but the realities of Covid-19 have handed them a real challenge. The majority of the USWNT roster has played barely more than one game per month at the club level, with no NWSL games in in over five weeks. Lindsey Horan, one of the best players in the U.S. pool, is unavailable after testing positive.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands (with a roster entirely based in European leagues) should be in mid-season form. The Dutch would have been a formidable opponent normally, but the circumstances point to a unique sort of challenge for the USWNT this afternoon.
What about the Washington Spirit?: There are two Spirit players in the USWNT squad right now, and both Aubrey Bledsoe and Ashley Hatch have some established starters to get past to get minutes. For Bledsoe, barring an injury to Alyssa Naeher, it likely comes down to Vlatko Andonovski deciding a) to split this game up between keepers, and b) choosing Bledsoe over Jane Campbell. This might have been a situation that could only be parsed if you happened to be at camp.
Hatch may have an easier pathway to an appearance today. For one, strikers get subbed more often than other positions. There’s also the aspect that Lynn Williams and Sophia Smith are probably going to be looked to at right forward, while Tobin Heath and Christen Press are both at their best operating on the left. That leaves Hatch and Alex Morgan as your specialist center forwards, and Morgan has been building her minutes up since returning to action after giving birth a few months ago.
In other words, there could be a serious opportunity for Hatch here.
Location: Rat Verlegh Stadion (Breda, Netherlands)
Kickoff time: 12:30pm Eastern
Projected USWNT starting 11: (433) - Alyssa Naeher; Emily Sonnett, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn; Samantha Mewis, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle; Lynn Williams, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath
Bench: Aubrey Bledsoe, Jane Campbell, Midge Purce, Alana Cook, Tierna Davidson, Kelley O’Hara, Jaelin Howell, Kristie Mewis, Sophia Smith, Ashley Hatch, Christen Press
The guesses here are at right back (Sonnett has been playing plenty during her loan in Sweden, while O’Hara missed a lot of time this year with injuries) and the front three. Is Morgan fit enough to start? Does Andonovski want Williams out on the wing, or leading the line? Is Smith, whose ceiling is being a key player on this team, ready to get the nod on the right?
Available TV: ESPN2, TUDN
Available streaming: WatchESPN (if you have a cable subscription), TUDN app
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
we our friends have to say about it?: Stars and Stripes FC has a full preview of this one for you.
What are you drinking?: I had several beers last night before, during, and after Thanksgiving dinner, so I will be calmly sipping on some coffee.
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