With all of the U.S. Soccer world still reeling from the shock of the U.S Men’s National Team missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986, the World Champion women’s side return to the field Thursday night for the first of a pair of friendlies against South Korea.
The women’s squad has been going through something of a rough patch of its own, although obviously not on the scale of their male counterparts, as coach Jill Ellis uses a lull in the competitive schedule to retool her team.
Ellis will want to see continued progress after an impressive two-game sweep of New Zealand last month when the Americans played the role of rude hosts in beating the Football Ferns by an 8-1 aggregate score.
It was the best the USWNT has looked in some time and Ellis may have found some of the answers she has been looking for in 2017, although as always, we must always caution, it is a long way to France 2019.
Those answers? Julie Ertz in a central midfield role. I would call it a defensive midfield role but I would hate to discourage the former Julie Johnson from her goal-scoring habit.
And if the U.S. did have a meaningful match to play in the near future Ellis would be wise to team Ertz with Sam Mewis and Lindsey Horan in the midfield.
Ellis also seems to have determined her back four, with Becky Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper in the middle flanked by Kelley O’Hara on the right and with Casey Short leading the pack on the left flank.
Alex Morgan also appears to be finally healthy and in form at the same time, but, hey, it’s early.
Back to the men for a second. If the next USMNT manager, short term or long, is in need of advice when it comes to coaching a team that has no meaningful games on the horizon, he – I’m willing to bet – should call Ellis. Or Pia Sundhage, or maybe Tom Sermanni.
These coaches have experience that could be of value to managers who seldom find themselves with such a barren run of fixtures in the men’s game.
October 19, 2017 – 7 PM CT
WNT vs Korea Republic
Mercedes-Benz Superdome; New Orleans, La.
October 22, 2017 – 2 PM ET
WNT vs Korea Republic
Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.
November 9, 2017 – 7 PM PT
WNT vs Canada
BC Place; Vancouver, Canada
November 12, 2017 – 6 PM PT
WNT vs Canada Avaya Stadium; San Jose, Calif.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 1/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 13/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 20/0)
DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 9/0), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 53/11), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars; 1/0), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC; 101/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 131/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 15/0)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 39/4), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash; 242/97), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 31/5), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 30/5), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 125/33), Andi Sullivan (Stanford; 4/0)
FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC; 55/22), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 130/77), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars; 92/43), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 28/6), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 11/3)