UPDATED to include roster information from press interviews with coaches today.
The United States leads Group G after two games, beating France and New Zealand for six points and a +3 goal differential.
Now they face their last group stage opponent, Colombia - the same Colombia they beat twice in April, at first 7-0, and then 3-0. Well, pretty much; in the Olympics, Colombia is without injured midfielder Yoreli Rincon, and despite the best efforts of daring striker Lady Andrade, are without a goal in two games.
France handled Colombia 4-0, and New Zealand managed fairly gritty 1-0 win as well, though Colombia looked like the more talented side and managed to get one of New Zealand’s key players sent off in the dying minutes of regulation.
Some American fans may be more familiar with Andrade in terms of being a notorious Abby-Wambach-face-puncher at the last Olympics, but she’s got plenty of on-the-ball skills to speak for her that the U.S. would be foolish in overlooking.
Andrade may not even be available, though, per Colombia’s coach Fabian Taborda.
Colombia coach Taborda says several players likely won't play vs. the US, including Lady Andrade. Cites exhaustion and heat. It's 95— Anne M. Peterson (@AnnieMPeterson) August 8, 2016
Meanwhile, the U.S. may consider this an opportunity for some roster rotation before they hit quarterfinals. They’re through to the next round as they’re guaranteed to end as one of the top two teams in the group no matter what, so we’ll see if Jill Ellis continues to rest Julie Johnston and Mal Pugh after they both picked up some nagging injuries after playing New Zealand, or gives them some minutes to keep them warm.
This could also be the time to test Megan Rapinoe, if she’s truly ready to play. 45 or even 30 minutes here could make the difference in her being able to make an impact in knockout as opposed to having to dive headfirst into a high-stakes game after not playing since December 2015.
True rotation would probably look something like resting some combination of Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Allie Long, and Tobin Heath, or limiting their minutes. This would be a good game to roll out Alyssa Naeher, as well as to start Ali Krieger and either rest Kelley O’Hara, or shift her left and rest Meghan Klingenberg. Get Lindsey Horan and Christen Press in there too at some point.
If the United States stays organized, they won’t have nearly the same trouble against Colombia as they did against France, when they struggled to figure out the midfield and couldn’t engage their flank players as much as they should have for how attack-minded Ellis has made her starting XIs. Colombia has talent, but New Zealand showed that a disciplined team was capable of pinching off their attacks; combine that with a deeper U.S. bench and better midfielders, and there should be much more opportunity to shoot in and around Colombia’s 18-yard box, as well as a lot more service from both left and right.
A win or a draw here will pit the U.S. against the 3rd-place team from Group E or F, which as it stands is either Sweden or Australia. But let’s not look too far ahead; things could switch around in Group E. For now, the U.S. needs to focus on getting crucial players the right amount of minutes and not picking up any injuries or cards.
USA vs Colombia kicks off on Tuesday, August 9 at 6 PM ET on NBCSN and NBC Universo. It will also stream live.