The United States Women will take on Ireland on Wednesday night at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Oregon. It's the first of two friendlies the two sides will play - the second is on December 1st in Glendale, Arizona - as the U.S. continues its post-Olympic celebration tour. The first match will air live on Fox Soccer at 10 p.m. ET.
Because we're still on the celebration tour and because Jill Ellis is still technically in charge - new head coach Tom Sermanni doesn't officially take over until January 1st - don't expect any changes.
Ellis might continue the slight tinkering in the back line, as she did in the team's last match against Germany. The USWNT's back four has been a work in progress since, well, it's been a long time. Maternity leaves, retirements, injuries, players playing out of position and so on, and Ellis has continued the tradition of throwing people into the revolving door. Against Germany Becky Sauerbrunn got the start and went the full 90. There was also something about Sydney Leroux spending 16 minutes as an outside back after Heather Mitts somehow injured herself while kicking a German player in the head. Ellis could repeat one of these scenarios - which one depends mostly on your confidence in Mitts, and how hard Ellis wants to troll a bunch of screaming pre-teens/people in Portland, because Portland, soccer.
But even with all the usual suspects, there's still potential for some interesting moments. The USWNT's 8-0-0 record against Ireland leaves this game prime for the kind of sleepy performance that leaves the team's eight-year domestic unbeaten streak in serious peril until Alex Morgan scores a goal in the 89th minute. There's also Abby Wambach, who, with 148 career goals, is quickly closing in on Mia Hamm's all-time record of 158.
The USWNT does have a few things going for it that might just cure that sleepiness though. Portland's reputation as a soccer city promises a solid crowd and a few players have connections to the Northwest - Megan Rapinoe played in Portland collegiately, Wambach recently bought a house there, and Hope Solo is from Seattle and played collegiately in Washington State. Solo, Rapinoe, Morgan and Leroux all also played for the Sounders Women last season.
In the eight previous meeting between the two sides, the USWNT has scored 30 goals and allowed just one. The last time the two sides met was a trio of games in 2008's post-gold medal tour, which the U.S. won by a combined score of 5-0. That series featured goals from four different players, including a pair from Tasha Kai, one from Lori Chalupny, the first and only goal of Kate Markgraf's 201 game career - which came on a PK , and one from Heather O'Reilly. O'Reilly is the only player still active with the USWNT [Insert "Free Lori Chalupny!"-related comment here].
And that this too is a celebration tour is not the only similarity between these games and the ones four years ago. Then, the players were finishing up a busy 2008, with a brand new "we're not going to make the same mistakes we made last time" professional league on the horizon. Four years later, the players are finishing up a busy 2012 with a brand new "we're not going to make the same mistakes we made last time or the time before that, like, we're not even going to tell you the league's name this time, plus now we have the backing of U.S. Soccer! And Canada! And Mexico!" professional league on the horizon. And of those games in 2008, two of the three were in WPS markets, Chicago and New Jersey, and the third was in Philadelphia, which got a WPS team in 2010. This time around? Portland will field a team in the new league.