SheBelieves 2: the SheBelievening is nearly upon us in the guise of the Tournament of Nations, in which the United States will face off against Australia, Brazil, and Japan. SheBelieves was not a high point for the WNT; they lost to France and England and scraped up a 1-0 victory over Germany. Now they’re trying again with a tweaked roster full of players who are in mid-season club form, and first up is #7 ranked Australia.
Of course, there are plenty of Australians who are also in club form; there are enough of them in NWSL that fans have started asking when Football Federation Australia will become an official partner with the league, the way that US Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Association subsidize national team salaries. Of the Matildas roster teed up for the ToN, Sam Kerr, Hayley Raso, Alanna Kennedy, Steph Catley, and Lydia Williams are all starters for NWSL teams. Some of the others are coming from Norway, Germany, and Japan and some are out of season with their W-League clubs. So there are varying levels of preparedness among their roster, but they should generally be good to go for an international match.
The last time the United States played Australia was the 2015 Women’s World Cup, beating them 3-1 in Winnipeg. Since then they had a very decent run at the 2016 Olympics (ultimately getting knocked out by Brazil on penalties in a heartbreaker of a quarterfinal match) and then they came in fourth overall in the 2017 Algarve Cup after Spain, Canada, and Denmark. They’ve brought a fairly experienced roster to the United States and in Sam Kerr they have a genuine future contender for world player of the year. With Kerr, Lisa De Vanna, and Hayley Raso all able to break quickly, that may keep the United States wary of pressing too high.
If the game is fought out in the midfield, Australia has Katrina Gorry to marshal the troops; Elise Kellond-Knight is also one to watch as someone who can disrupt US possession and flip the Australian counter. Australia can take the press and give it right back, so possession will need to be sharp, or else this game could turn into real end-to-end stuff.
On the American side, there are some points of interest at every position. Some of the bigger ones to consider are whether Ali Krieger gets any field time and at what position; whether Sydney Leroux gets a chance to demonstrate if she’s still WNT-level; and if Morgan Brian is asked to play while carrying an injury. We’ll also see if new callups Taylor Smith and Margaret Purce can implement the high-pressing flank attack that Ellis seems to like, or if it all bites them in the butt when an Australian takes off hell for leather and scores on the counter. One key difference here is that Jill Ellis seems to have seen what she needs of her three-back experiment. She definitely saw the system’s weaknesses against top teams during SheBelieves and has since used a 4-4-2, which has sort of gotten the job done in friendlies since.
“We’re pretty familiar with a lot of [Australia’s] individual players from the league and just the great things they’ve been doing around the world, so I think it’s going to be probably one of the toughest games we have this year,” said Christen Press in Seattle, where she is with the team in preparation for the tournament. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. They play fast-paced, good soccer so I think we’re looking forward to a tough first opponent.”
Rosters by position:
DEFENDERS (7): 7- Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 4/0), 8- Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars: 49/8), 11- Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride; 98/1); 5- Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC; 96/2), 4- Becky Sauerbrunn(FC Kansas City; 126/0), 7- Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 10/0); 16- Taylor Smith (NC Courage; 0/0)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 6- Morgan Brian (Houston Dash; 66/6), 10- Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash; 239/97), 20- Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 27/5), 3- Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 25/4), 17- Margaret Purce (Boston Breakers; 0/0); 15- Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign; 121/31)
FORWARDS (7): 19- Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC; 52/22), 9- Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 35/3); 2- Sydney Leroux (FC Kansas City/ 75/35), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride: 125/73); 23-Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), 22- Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), 12- Lynn Williams (NC Courage)
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Lydia Williams (Houston Dash, USA), 18-Mackenzie Arnold (Brisbane Roar FC)
DEFENDERS (6 ): 3-Caitlin Cooper (Illawarra Stingrays), 4-Clare Polkinghorne (Brisbane Roar FC), 5-Laura Alleway (Unattached), 7-Steph Catley (Orlando Pride, USA), 14-Alanna Kennedy (Orlando Pride, USA), 21-Ellie Carpenter (Western Sydney Wanderers FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): 2-Gema Simon (Avaldsnes, Norway), 6-Chloe Logarzo (Avaldsnes, Norway), 8-Elise Kellond-Knight (FC Turbine Potsdam, Germany), 9-Caitlin Foord (Vegalta Sendai, Japan), 10-Emily van Egmond (VfL Wolfsburg, Germany), 13-Tameka Butt (Klepp I-L, Norway), 19-Katrina Gorry (Vegalta Sendai, Japan), 22-Alex Chidiac (Adelaide City)
FORWARDS (5): 11-Lisa De Vanna (South Melbourne), 15-Emily Gielnik (Avaldsnes, Norway), 16-Hayley Raso (Portland Thorns, USA), 17-Princess Ibini (Football NSW NTC), 20-Sam Kerr (Sky Blue FC, USA)
USA vs Australia kicks off at 10 PM ET on Thursday, July 27 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The game will air live on ESPN.