NWSL might be over for 2017, but the USWNT will keep it rolling this fall. They kick off the first of two friendlies against South Korea on Thursday in New Orleans. These teams last met in 2015 for a 0-0 draw ahead of the World Cup.
South Korea is a team undergoing some development at the moment; they’ve previously shown a lot of promise, especially at the youth level, and they’re now trying to leverage that into senior WNT success. Korea can play a tight possession game while they probe the defense for passing channels, although strong US pressure could keep them off balance.
American fans will probably be most familiar with Jeon Gaeul and Ji Soyun; Jeon had a cup of coffee with the WNY Flash in NWSL last year, but didn’t manage to break into the team. Ji Soyun plays with Crystal Dunn at Chelsea in the FAWSL. Ji is a fairly tidy, technical player who can get into scoring position as well as set the tempo from deeper. A tough American defense could manage her by simply bodying her off the ball, though.
Also keep an eye on midfielder Cho Sohyun to try and pull strings, coming from deep and setting up the final ball into the box for her attackers. The United States will have deny her the space to push up as well as deal with her purely on a physical level.
Honestly, a decently physical US team could really keep Korea off the ball here, no tactical brilliance required. Of course, we should be hoping for more of the fun, fluid movement we got against New Zealand, but we’ll see if they attempt to continue that or if Ellis switches things up with Carli LLoyd now back in camp. Lloyd may act as a sub here given her recent return from injury. Andi Sullivan is much more in need of time to demonstrate if she’s 100% again, as well as time to just mesh with the other players as the unknown quantity to Lloyd’s very well-known role.
The other points of evaluation here are Sofia Huerta in the defense after an entire season as a forward for Chicago, who among the forwards works well with whom, and which goalkeeper looks steadiest. Crystal Dunn has been relatively isolated from the rest of the WNT with Chelsea and with her season starting and theirs having ended, could be at very different points in terms of form and fitness.
Of note, Tobin Heath and Taylor Smith were both ruled out of this camp after sustaining injuries in the NWSL final in Orlando this past weekend. Heath picked up an ankle knock and Smith a shoulder injury and will not be replaced, leaving 20 players in camp. 18 will be picked for each game day roster.
DEFENDERS (6): 7- Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 9/0), 8- Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars: 53/11), 11- Sofia Huerta(Chicago Red Stars; 1/0), 5- Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC; 101/2), 4- Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 131/0), 7- Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 15/0)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 9- Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC, 39/4), 10- Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash; 242/97); 20- Allie Long(Portland Thorns FC; 31/5), 3- Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 30/5), 6- Andi Sullivan (Stanford; 4/0)
FORWARDS (6): 19- Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC; 55/22), 13- Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride: 130/77); 23- Christen Press(Chicago Red Stars; 92/43), 2- Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 28/6), 15- Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign; 125/33), 12- Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 11/3)
HOW TO WATCH:
USA vs South Korea, Game 1
October 19, 8 PM ET, FS1
USA vs South Korea, Game 2
October 22, 2 PM ET, ESPN