The United States women’s national team (USWNT) announced on Friday that it had scheduled two international friendlies against Russia for April. The first match will be played on April 6 in Frisco, Texas, while the team will close out the pair on April 9 in Houston.
Although booking the 23rd-ranked team in the world seems to contradict USWNT Head Coach Jill Ellis’ statements that a goal of her was to have the team play as many of the top teams in the world as often as possible, a less challenging opponent is not necessarily a bad thing.
Coming off March’s SheBelieves Cup in which the U.S. plays host to four of the top five teams in the world (Germany, France and England), a weaker opponent will allow the USWNT to compete and stay sharp while hopefully allowing more of the U.S.’s roster—or possibly even new call-ups—to see minutes on the field.
In comparison, the U.S. will be a hard test for Russia, the 23rd-ranked team in the world, as they prepare for the 2017 UEFA Women’s EURO tournament. They begin group play in July where they’ll face the reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists (Germany and Sweden, respectively) and Italy in Group B.
The last time the two teams faced off was in February 2014 in another pair of friendlies. The USWNT defeated Russia 7-0 on Feb. 8 at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla. Both Carli Lloyd and Christen Press walked away with braces on the night, and Heather O’Reilly, Sydney Leroux and Abby Wambach all contributed to the win. The USWNT once again defeated the Russians on Feb. 13, this time 8-0 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Two own goals put the U.S. on the board first, with Amy Rodriguez, Megan Rapinoe, Lauren Holiday, O’Reilly, Press and Wambach all scoring as well.
Although the matches will be played a little more than a week before the 2017 NWSL season is rumored to begin, the matches do fall in the April 3-11 FIFA window for international play. USWNT players will be pulled from their clubs at the tail end of preseason but should return in plenty of time to be ready for opening weekend.
The USWNT and Russia’s first match will kick off at 8:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, April 6 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas and will be broadcast on FS1. The second match will kick off at 2 p.m. EST on Sunday, April 9 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston and will be broadcast on ESPN.