After coming off a second-place finish at the inaugural Tournament of Nations (ToN), the United States women’s national team (USWNT) is filling the September FIFA break with a pair of friendlies against New Zealand. The first of those takes place tomorrow, Friday, September 15 with the two-game series concluding on Tuesday.
The last meeting between the two teams was during the opening match of the 2016 Summer Olympics group stage. The US defeated New Zealand 2-0 off of goals by Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan. It was the second consecutive shutout against the Ferns, as the USWNT also defeated them on April 4, 2015, in St. Louis, 4-0, thanks to four different goal scorers: Meghan Klingenberg, Lori Chalupny, Julie Ertz and Morgan Brian.
As past score lines suggest, New Zealand doesn’t pose much of a challenge to the USWNT, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering the timing of the friendlies. The Football Ferns are ranked 20th in the world, a noticeable deviation from the Top 10 opponents that have been heavily featured in the USWNT’s schedule this year. US Soccer is not going to miss an opportunity to have the USWNT get more competition under their belts (or to sell some tickets, let’s be honest here), but friendlies against a Top 10 opponent in the final weeks of the NWSL regular season could be detrimental to a number of teams, especially the three whose postseason fates still hang in the balance.
According to head coach Jill Ellis, these friendlies will also mark a new phase for the reigning World Champs, as she said post-Tournament of Nations that the US’s period of experimentation—the one that saw Portland Thorns midfielder Allie Long center a three back, or center back Becky Sauerbrunn pushed into the midfield—was over. We’ll see if that holds true, as there were a number of questionable roster moves made by the coach ahead of this September camp.
However, if it does, that means that Sky Blue FC defender and newly-minted co-captain Kelley O’Hara will likely see the field once again for her country, making her historic 100th appearance for the USWNT. If she does, she will become the 36th player to hit the century mark for the US.
O’Hara has some solid competition at outside back though, especially with the returns of North Carolina Courage right back Taylor Smith and Chicago Red Stars midfielder Sofia Huerta. Smith debuted during ToN, earning her first three caps and recording two assists during the tournament. She started the first two tournament matches and subbed on for O’Hara in the third. Huerta, whose change of association request was approved earlier today by FIFA (she was previously capped with Mexico, requiring a change of association), is immediately eligible to play for the USWNT. If she does against New Zealand, she may do so at right back, the position in which she was reportedly training with the US during ToN.
The USWNT first take on New Zealand on Friday, September 15 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. Kickoff is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and streamed on the WatchESPN site and mobile app.
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster by Position
Goalkeepers (3): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride)
Defenders (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), Tierna Davidson (Stanford), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Taylor Smith (NC Courage)
Midfielders (8): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
Forwards (5): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), Lynn Williams (NC Courage)
New Zealand Women’s National Team Roster by Position
Goalkeepers (3): Victoria Esson (North Shore United), Anna Leat (Glenfield Rovers), Erin Nayler (Girondins Bordeaux)
Defenders (7): Elizabeth Anton (Western Springs), CJ Bott (USV Jena), Anna Green (Reading FC), Meikayla Moore (Norwest United), Ria Percival (FC Basel), Ali Riley (FC Rosengard), Rebekah Stott (Seattle Reign)
Midfielders (7): Annalie Longo (Cashmere Technical), Betsy Hassett (KR Reykjavik), Katie Bowen (FC Kansas City), Olivia Chance (Everton Ladies), Daisy Cleverley (UC Berkeley), Malia Steinmetz (Forrest Hill Milford United), Kirsty Yallop (Klepp IL)
Forwards (6): Jane Barnett (Norwest United), Aimee Phillips (Eastern Suburbs), Martine Puketapu (University of Colorado), Katie Rood (Juventus), Rosie White (Boston Breakers), Hannah Wilkinson (Vittsjo GIK)