The United States women’s national team will play two friendlies against New Zealand this month. There’s a feeling that this is just USSF filling every available window in the FIFA calendar; why else play New Zealand at the end of the NWSL season, when a lot of WNT players are tired from the club grind and also trying to push into playoffs? But USSF will have its way (and its money), especially in a year with no big tournaments. Here’s what you need to know ahead of these games.
DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 7/0), Tierna Davidson (Stanford; 0/0), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 51/9), Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC; 99/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 129/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 13/0), Taylor Smith (NC Courage; 3/0)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars; 67/6), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 131/18), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 37/3), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers; 6/2), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 30/5), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 28/5), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 123/33)
FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC; 54/22), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 128/74), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars; 90/43), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 26/5), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 10/2)
WHAT DOES THE US GET OUT OF THIS?
Not much, really. It’s not particularly a chance to look at new talent, since the only uncapped player called in was Tierna Davidson. It might be a way to see if there’s a starting back four in there, as well as get Rose Lavelle back up to speed after her hamstring injury (overworking herself...for the WNT, this time in a previous friendly against Norway in another interruption of the NWSL season). But there’s honestly not a lot to learn out of this roster, against this opponent, unless the Football Ferns pull off an upset. Everyone should just enjoy these games and hope everyone goes home injury-free.
By that same reasoning, we really shouldn’t read too much into who’s in and who’s out on this roster compared to the Tournament of Nations roster. Notably, Carli Lloyd is absent due to an ankle injury, although Tobin Heath is in despite still not being considered healthy enough to travel with the Portland Thorns.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Though Jill Ellis has said she wants to start solidifying the roster ahead of World Cup qualifying, with four more friendlies left in the year, this might be another chance for her to fiddle a bit with her players and their roles. But based on what we saw in the ToN, here’s a possible starting XI:
THE FOOTBALL FERNS
GOALKEEPERS (3): 23-Victoria Esson (North Shore United), 21-Anna Leat (Glenfield Rovers), 1-Erin Nayler (Girondins Bordeaux, France)
DEFENDERS (7): 25-Elizabeth Anton (Western Springs), 4-CJ Bott (USV Jena, Germany), 3-Anna Green (Reading, England), 5-Meikayla Moore (Norwest United), 2-Ria Percival (FC Basel, Switzerland), 7-Ali Riley (FC Rosengard, Sweden), 6-Rebekah Stott (Seattle Reign, USA)
MIDFIELDERS (7): 10-Annalie Longo (Cashmere Technical), 12-Betsy Hassett (KR Reykjavik, Iceland), 14-Katie Bowen (FC Kansas City, USA), 16-Olivia Chance (Everton, England), 8-Daisy Cleverley (UC Berkeley, USA), 20-Malia Steinmetz (Forrest Hill Milford United), 11-Kirsty Yallop (Klepp IL, Norway)
FORWARDS (6): 26-Jane Barnett (Norwest United), 18-Aimee Phillips (Eastern Suburbs), 15-Martine Puketapu (University of Colorado, USA), 22-Katie Rood (Juventus, Italy), 13-Rosie White (Boston Breakers, USA), 17-Hannah Wilkinson (Vittsjo GIK, Sweden)
New Zealand as a team haven’t played together in quite a while (it looks like they haven’t been together since March for the Cyprus Cup) so expect them to look rusty. American fans are probably most familiar with Rebekah Stott, Katie Bowen, and Rosie White, who all play in NWSL. But defenders Ria Percival and Ali Riley will be key leaders in the back, although the team will surely be missing the leadership and experience of former captain Abby Erceg, who retired from international soccer to protest the team’s treatment by NZF. Up top, Rosie White and Hannah Wilkinson are decent strikers, but should be containable by the US defense.
TIME, DATE, AND TV INFO
USA vs. New Zealand, September 15, 10:00 PM ET
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colorado
USA vs. New Zealand, September 19, 7:30 PM ET
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnatti, Ohio