The bare facts underlying tonight’s game between the Unites States and Mexico are simple: if you win the game, you’re in the Olympics...but if you lose, you’re out. No second chances, no playoff against another confederation. Yes, it’s a semifinal, and yes, the final is not really very important. The USWNT, on an unbeaten run that goes back over a full year, are extraordinarily heavy favorites, but the last team Concacaf opponent to put one over on the U.S. in a game of this importance was Mexico, back in qualifying for the 2011 World Cup. If the USWNT sees this game as a given, they might find themselves in a real battle.
Key player: Rose Lavelle
There’s no reason to expect Mexico to come out and play a wide-open game. They’re going to drop their line of contention deep and focus on congesting the middle. It’s going to be extremely low-risk stuff.
That’s exactly the kind of opponent that a player like Lavelle needs to be at her best against. As I’m writing this, Canada is struggling mightily to pull a very organized, hard-working Costa Rica side out of shape. Lavelle’s gifts, especially her close control and her ability to see solutions before defenders know where they’re vulnerable, need to be on full display to avoid this becoming a slog. The USWNT realistically shouldn’t have to rely on set pieces and wearing teams down in the first 70 minutes, and Lavelle is vital to making sure they can seize the advantage through open play.
Location: Dignity Health Sports Park (Carson, CA)
Kickoff time: 10:00pm Eastern
The biggest questions remain Lloyd or Press up front, and Horan or Mewis playing as the eight. Horan has been very effective so far, so give her the edge. The issue with Lloyd or Press is that Lloyd corrected a lot of what she struggled with in the opener, and was far better in the group finale against Costa Rica. On the other hand, against a bunkering defense, the craftier approach that Press brings might be preferable.
From a Washington Spirit perspective, if this game is close in the final stages, we could possibly see Ertz drop in as a third center back, with Sullivan replacing her in the midfield. Lavelle, as we’ve already discussed, is a sure starter.
Projected Mexico starting 11: (4141) - Emily Alvarado; Bianca Sierra, Janelly Farias, Jocelyn Orejel, Jimena Lopez; Rebeca Bernal; Daniela Espinoza, Kiana Palacios, Stephany Mayor, Jacky Ovalle; Renae Cuellar
Players to watch for Mexico include rumored Houston Dash target Ovalle, whose ability to create chances on the dribble is going to be essential for Mexico today. The list also has to include Bernal, who has had a standout tournament shielding the center backs. This will be the biggest test she’s faced by far.
Available TV: Fox Sports 1, Galavision
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, FoxSports.com (with FS1 authentication)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
we our friends have to say about it?: Link to anything we happened to write about the game in question. If we didn’t write anything, skip this section.
What are you drinking?: It’s Friday night, and it’s been a long-ass week. I’ll probably be working my way through the remaining 2-3 Hofbrau Dunkels I have in the fridge as this one plays out.
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