The United States has just one more friendly before they leave for Brazil and begin preparations in earnest for the Olympics.
Some of the more critical questions that this game might answer are: is Megan Rapinoe really match fit, and how much time does Carli Lloyd need to shake off the last of the rust?
Rapinoe was supposed to be available against South Africa earlier this month per Jill Ellis, except she picked up a slight injury in training. So getting at least a half against Costa Rica would be a good sign that she’s ready to get some minutes in Brazil, even if she’s not going to play full 90s to start.
As for Lloyd, it kind of showed in the last game that she needed to get back in the thick of things after a long MCL recovery. That’s not a slam on Lloyd; that’s just the reality of any athlete recovering from injury, and one more game to really readjust is probably exactly what she needs.
Other questions to contemplate are Ellis’ attacking formation and whether Alyssa Naeher will finally get a little bit of time to practice under real game conditions. With this being the team’s farewell game and Solo likely to start every game in Brazil, odds on Naeher getting time in net are slim. At this point it’s not even a very serious question; it would just be nice to see.
As for the forwards, will Ellis deploy all four at once, or will she experiment with possible game conditions, like simulating a squad rotation later in the tournament that might require her to only play Morgan and Press, or Morgan and Dunn, or even just Press and Dunn?
Alex Morgan has been in good form lately, especially with a brace against Japan in June to help drag the US to a 3-3 tie, so it’s hard to see how Ellis can justify not practicing a rotation where she starts. She’ll probably want whatever starting XI she has planned for group stages to go through at least one warmup game together.
As for Costa Rica, they’re not among the teams headed to the Olympics, so there’s not much at stake here for them except a good game against a good team. Their full roster is here. They’ve got several players to watch, among them Shirley Cruz, Gloriana Villalobos, and Raquel Rodriguez, who has been pulling some strings for Sky Blue FC in the NWSL. It’ll be important to shut down Rodriguez and cut off any service to Cruz. You can see them running riot over Puerto Rico in these highlights.
The last meeting between the US and Costa Rica was February 10, 2016 at CONCACAF Olympic qualifying in Texas, when they beat Costa Rica 5-0 off of goals by Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Crystal Dunn, and Christen Press. Before that, 7-2 and 8-0 wins in August 2015. Costa Rica is capable of pouncing on US errors and getting a few back, but this is a farewell game, so for all the talk of testing and checking and rotating, it’s also just supposed to be a fun way to send the team off to Brazil. So hopefully everyone has fun, no one gets injured, and both teams learn a few things. Let us know your score predictions in the comments!
USA vs Costa Rica kicks off at 9 PM ET on Friday, July 22 and will air live on ESPN.