Fresh off their redemptive victory over France, the United States takes on New Zealand at Busch Stadium in St. Louis with an anticipated crowd of over 32,000. The team has been in camp in California since March 23rd and will return to their respective NWSL teams after a closed-door scrimmage on April 6th. This match marks the last chance for players to impress before Head Coach, Jill Ellis, puts together her final roster for the World Cup. Ellis indicated in a recent interview with SI.com's Grant Wahl, that she expects to inform her chosen 23 before the players return to their NWSL teams.
With four friendlies (and another closed door scrimmage against New Zealand) before the World Cup this summer, it's now about the "core 13 to 14 players." Do not expect any surprises. Ellis has indicated that the time for experimentation is over. For those of you (like myself) who have been asking for a defensive midfielder we won't be seeing that. Instead we'll probably see some combination Morgan Brian, Carli Lloyd, and Lauren Holiday "spraying" (her words not mine) the ball all over the field.
@itsmeglinehan Spray: verb meaning to lump forward when done by players who are bad at defense.— Mike L. Goodman (@TheM_L_G) April 2, 2015
In terms of Sky Blue FC players, Christie Rampone is out for this game. She suffered a sprained MCL in the during the team's camp in California. While she is the second most capped player of the USWNT you wonder if this injury (depending how serious) may jeopardize her seat on the plane to Canada. Kelley O'Hara has played in 4 out of 6 of the Women's National Team games this year, starting in their 0-0 tie with Iceland. Look for her to most likely come off the bench around the 60th minute and add either more offense to the fullback position or more defense to the wide midfield position.
While the United States has been relaxing on the beach between training sessions, New Zealand has spent more than 30 hours in transit just trying to get here. A combination of flights and thunderstorms forced the Football Ferns to get the Tom Hanks Terminal treatment in Sydney.
The USWNT hasn't lost against the Football Ferns since their first meeting and sports a 10-1-1 record against New Zealand. However the last two meetings have been much closer the records indicates. The last game was a 1-1 tie and the game before needed a 88th minute equalizer and stoppage time winner for the USWNT to pull out the win. New Zealand is coming off a 2-2 tie with Spain in their own World Cup preparation and are definitely looking forward to this match.
Overall this should be a good test for both team as they start to finalize their preparation for the World Cup this summer.