Coming off their 7-0 defeat of Colombia last Wednesday, April 6, the U.S. Women’s National Team (U.S. WNT) once again faces the South American team on Sunday, April 10 in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Wednesday night saw six different players score for the U.S. WNT: Crystal Dunn, Carli Lloyd, Mallory Pugh, Tobin Heath and Christen Press had one goal each, and Allie Long had a brace.
Although the team walked away as champions of both the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament and the inaugural SheBelieves Cup, the quality of play since the World Cup had noticeably declined. Wednesday night, however, the team seemed to be possessing and controlling the ball much better than in recent matches.
The offense also dominated the match with 24 total shots, 14 of which were on goal, compared to Colombia's six total shots.
Head Coach Jill Ellis was forced to try a new starting lineup and formation because of the unavailability of regular starters Alex Morgan and Morgan Brian who were out with injuries. In their steads, Dunn and Long, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns FC who had last been capped with the U.S. WNT back in 2014, got the start.
The changes to the U.S. offense seemed to be especially effective. Dunn scored the first goal of the night and tallied two assists, and Long ended up being a vital part of the U.S. attack, scoring two goals and nearly scoring a third when a shot taken in just the 12’ was deflected off the crossbar.
Both Morgan and Brian are expected to be available for Sunday’s match, so it will be interesting to see if Ellis falls back on her old standby starting XI, or if she will again start other players. If Morgan is healthy, she will most likely get the start over Dunn or Christen Press. Both Dunn and Press have proven themselves as powerful players off the bench, and Ellis will most likely use them as that if needed on Sunday.
Long has the best chance to return to starting XI as Ellis seems to be impressed with her play, both in her NWSL preseason with the Thorns and in her time in camp with the national team. Ellis has said Long is competing against Brian and Samantha Mewis for the six spot for Rio, so she will most likely see playing time even if she does not start.
Lindsey Horan, who had been starting in the six, will most likely once again be shifted to play more as an eight as she did in the first match against Colombia. She has been a weak link to the defensive side of play for the U.S. in recent matches, and playing in more of an attacking position is most likely a better fit for the forward-turned-midfielder.
Despite criticism that the team’s backup goalkeepers, Ashlyn Harris and Alyssa Naeher, need more experience, Hope Solo will most likely be standing in goal for the U.S. WNT come Sunday.
Solo recorded her 98th career shutout and 194th cap Wednesday night and is well on her way to becoming the first goalkeeper—men’s or women’s—to earn 100 shutouts and 200 caps. Since U.S. Soccer seems to love its records and career milestones, Solo will most likely get time between the posts until she accomplishes this feat.
The U.S. WNT faces Colombia in the last of a pair of international friendlies on Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m. EST in Chester, Pennsylvania. The game will be aired on ESPN and will be available for streaming on Watch ESPN and the Watch ESPN app.
U.S. WNT Roster By Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (8): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City)
FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)
Update: It has been announced that Morgan Brian would be unavailable for Sunday's match and has returned to her NWSL club team, the Houston Dash, with a hamstring injury.
U.S. WNT vs Colombia WNT
When: 2:00 p.m. EST; April 10, 2016
Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania, USA
Online: Watch ESPN (espn.go.com)
or the Watch ESPN app