USA vs. Scotland preview: Tom Sermanni time starts now

Alex Grimm

The USWNT takes on Scotland in Jacksonville in first of two friendlies against the world's number 23. A few new faces could earn their first cap, but don't expect a full-on revolution in Tom Sermanni's first match in charge.

The Tom Sermanni era will officially kick off Saturday afternoon, when the U.S. Women's National Team takes on Sermanni's native Scotland in a friendly at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. The match will be the first for the team with Sermanni at the helm, and the first since completing the Fan Tribute Tour in December. The USWNT has been in camp in Jacksonville since last weekend and will face Scotland again on February 13th in Nashville, before heading to Portugal for the Algarve Cup in early March.

Sermanni's 18-player roster for the match, much like the group of 29 he called up for the camp, relies heavily on names made familiar during the reign of Pia Sundhage, but also gives the nod a couple up-and-comers. Three uncapped players are on Sermanni's game day roster; defender Julie Johnston, midfielder Kristie Mewis and Forward Christen Press.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo will miss the match with a minor calf strain, making Nicole Barnhart the obvious choice in goal. Barnhart made three appearances as a second half sub during the Fan Tribute Tour, but hasn't started in nearly a year. Her last start came on March 7, 2012, when she earned a clean sheet as the U.S. topped Sweden 4-0 in the third place match of the Algarve Cup.

The USWNT's back four will be the thing to watch, as the team begins life - at least for a little while - without Amy LePeilbet, who's due to miss considerable time to have ACL surgery. The team will also be without Rachel Buehler for the match. The good news, Ali Krieger is back. Krieger, who tore her ACL during the first match of CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying in January of 2012, had been playing with now-former club team FFC Frankfurt in Germany, but hasn't suited up for the USWNT since the injury. Johnston, who won the Bronze Ball in the 2012 U-20 World Cup, could earn her first cap alongside Christie Rampone in the center of the defense. Sermanni's time at the helm of the Australia WNT was full of first caps for young players, and a match against the 23rd-ranked Scotland could be the perfect opportunity for some long-awaited new blood in the USWNT lineup.

Speaking of new blood, the midfield probably won't have any. Megan Rapinoe will miss the match after arriving late to camp due to club commitments with Olympique Lyon in France, but otherwise, expect all the usual suspects, at least in the first half. Yael Averbuch, who hasn't played for the USWNT since January of 2011 offers an option for Sermanni off the bench.

The USWNT will also be without the pregnant Amy Rodriguez, but Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach have been doing just fine without her. The uncapped Press was a teammate of Wambach's at magicJack in WPS, and has been playing in Sweden since the league's demise. Press was the Damallsvenskan's second-highest scorer in 2012, but commitments in Sweden and a certain Swedish coach have kept her mostly out of the USWNT picture, although she was an alternate for the 2012 Olympics. Press should get a chance to prove herself against Scotland, and Sermanni also has Sydney Leroux. For now though, the focus will be on Wambach, whose 152 career goals leave her just six shy of the record of 158 set by Mia Hamm.

The USWNT has played Scotland just once before, and 8-2 win in Columbus, Ohio, in 2002. Wambach and Hamm both had hat tricks in that match. Scotland last played in October of 2012, losing to Spain in a playoff match for the 2013 Euros. Midfielder Kim Little was a member of the Great Britain side that competed at the 2012 Olympics and has 26 goals for Scotland. All of the players on the Scotland squad for the match against the U.S. play in Europe. Other than Little, Scotland's most notable scoring threats will be Jane Ross and Suzanne Grant. Defender Ifeoma Dieke, who played for Chicago Red Stars and Boston Breakers in WPS isn't on the roster for match due to injury.

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