The United States heads into tonight’s Concacaf Olympic qualifying match, the Group A finale against Costa Rica, having accomplished their first objective from this tournament. They’ve clinched a place in the semifinal round, which is to say they’ve guaranteed themselves a one-game playoff for a spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Job number two? The USWNT is confident against any opponent, but they’d surely prefer that semifinal come against Group B’s runner-up (most likely Mexico) rather than Canada, who have been very strong in their first two games.
These teams met less than three months ago, with the U.S. storming to a 6-0 win in Jacksonville. Costa Rica, whose results in Group A have only been a short step behind those of the USWNT, will be eager to prove that they’re closer to being a real challenger in Concacaf than that scoreline indicates.
Key player: Carli Lloyd
Lloyd is in an interesting spot right now. With Alex Morgan unavailable due to pregnancy, Lloyd is getting the first crack at locking down the starting job as a center forward. The job seems tailor-made for her skillset, but the early returns have been, as my colleague Kim McCauley points out, very uneven. On one hand, her performance against Haiti was way below her own standards...but she still ended up producing a classic Lloyd goal, showing the kind of hunger and physical bravery that few players in women’s soccer history can match.
Lloyd’s aim today needs to be more involvement in build-up play, and a more focused 90 minutes. The former concerns her tendency to stay high upfield, leaving the midfield with a needlessly difficult task when it comes to linking up with her. The latter is really about her choices without the ball; against Haiti, she wasn’t completing runs, and at one point stopped pursuing a loose ball in a promising spot to argue a call.
The good news? We’ve seen Lloyd get that stuff right, and when she does, she’s a threat to put up a hat trick on just about anyone. As frustrating as her showing against Haiti was, she’s a few small adjustments from dominating today, and we’ve seen her make those adjustments plenty of times.
Location: BBVA Compass Stadium (Houston, TX)
Kickoff time: 8:30pm Eastern
With both teams on 6 points and through to the semifinals, the object today is to secure an easier semifinal by winning the group. With that in mind, Vlatko Andonovski is very likely to start what he sees as his strongest team. For the Washington Spirit contingent, that very likely means a start for Lavelle, while Sullivan (despite a strong performance against Panama) will probably make way for Ertz.
That probably means a pretty familiar group, with only a couple of spots in question. In the midfield, Horan has been an X-factor in a way that she wasn’t that often in 2019, and while it’s no knock on Mewis, the group may benefit from Horan’s ability to get into the box as a late-arriving goal threat.
Up front, Williams has outplayed Lloyd over the two games so far, but Lloyd’s history probably gives her the edge at center forward. However, Andonovski could certainly be forgiven for starting the North Carolina Courage forward, or putting Press in that role to boost the team’s ability to combine between the lines.
Available TV: Fox Sports 1, TUDN
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, FoxSports.com (if you have a subscription to FS1 already), TUDN en Vivo
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
we our friends have to say about it?: Here’s a detailed preview from Stars and Stripes FC, including a look at Costa Rica’s tactics.
What are you drinking?: Unfortunately this game and our schedule for recording Filibuster have clashed, so whatever I make before we start recording will be my drink when this game is live. However, when I’m watching it off the DVR at like 11pm, it’ll probably be nothing more exciting than some seltzer.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.