When predicting matchups for SheBelieves, most people probably would have pegged Germany as the United States’ toughest test. Not by a huge margin, with some wiggle room to argue for France, but the point being that England wouldn’t have been the top of the list.
They still may not be top of the list, but they may also end up providing a lot more trouble for the US than Germany did. As we saw in the opening US game, their 1-0 victory over Germany was more a function of Christen Press doing Christen Press things and a lackadaisical German side.
But in England’s game against France, they showed an ability to work through the middle and commit to a pressing game, at least for the first half. The foot came off the pedal somewhat in the second half, and France’s two goals on them came from crosses into the box that found willing heads. You wouldn’t happen to know a team that likes to emphasize width in attacking and putting the ball into the box, would you?
But the US will need to do more than just aimlessly toss the ball in and hope one of their bajillion attacking players pounces on it. They’ll need to attack with purpose, and together, taking advantage of the numbers that the 3-4-2-1 affords them. If Carli Lloyd or whoever is right behind her in midfield (could be Sam Mewis, could be Lindsey Horan again even though Ellis put her back at forward where she should be, could be Rose Lavelle, could be our hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow, Ellis does what she wants) manages to pull it together, then it could be quite a tussle in the midfield, with England’s Jill Scott and Jade Moore looking to shut down the center of the park.
Other England players the US should be wary of include Jordan Nobbs and Lucy Bronze; Nobbs can put the balls on target and Bronze is a tough fullback who offers England some width. England has a small bevy of other potential scorers as well; they’re not lacking in choices in front of net, with Ellen White able to strike well from distance and Jodie Taylor making penetrating runs into the 18. This could be a stronger test for a back three of Casey Short, Allie Long, and Becky Sauerbrunn; Short in particular here could be a game changer if she capitalizes on the potential we saw from her against Germany.
Keys for the US here are not getting bullied in the midfield, and using the width of the field with purpose. Could we see Kelley O’Hara as a midfielder? She has experience now as a defender and the engine to pull back and go forward as necessary. Or will Crystal Dunn and Tobin Heath continue to try and settle in on the wings? Ellis subbed Mallory Pugh in as a like-for-like swap with Dunn, but she might be better off as one of the top two instead. A Press-and-Pugh start seems worth consideration, once again assuming Alex Morgan isn’t up to a full 90 yet. There are a lot of players here Ellis seems to consider interchangeable by position, so it’s a bit of a coin toss really to see what the starting XI will be.
USA vs England kicks off at 5 PM ET at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, March 4. The game will air live on Fox.