The United States women’s national team will play two friendlies against Mexico this week. Most of the players called in for this game are a couple of weeks into the NWSL season, so everyone should be in fighting shape without being overly tired.
There are a couple of tweaks impacting the possible personnel and formations available to Jill Ellis, particularly at outside back. Kelley O’Hara is a late scratch from the roster after sustaining a hamstring injury and has been replaced by U-23 player Tegan McGrady. Ellis has also brought in Haley Hanson from the Houston Dash. Looking at Ellis’ outside back options now, she has McGrady, Sofia Huerta, and probably Emily Sonnett and Crystal Dunn, who will undoubtedly get shifted around as necessary despite being a center back and forward respectively. She’s also lost some versatility with O’Hara, who was capable of easily switching left and right. You add in that Ellis doesn’t currently rate Taylor Smith and Casey Short is out injured, that makes for a very thin FB pool.
Of note: Sofia Huerta did, of course, make a one-time switch from Mexico to the United States. Does that make it more likely that she’ll get minutes?
Your answer will probably partly depend on how much you think USSF can resist the added drama/human interest of playing Huerta against her former federation. That’s slightly unfair to Huerta as a player; she’s a talented midfielder/forward for Chicago, and she certainly isn’t the one asking to be put in for the sake of a good storyline. But that’s USSF for you. Hopefully, regardless of the reason Ellis might finally give Huerta solid minutes on the field when she only played 16 minutes over the course of SheBelieves, she’ll be able to fill in a crucial gap in the current WNT positional chart.
Other players to keep an eye on: Becky Sauerbrunn is back after rehabbing a foot injury, and young Savannah McCaskill and Ashley Hatch will want to take advantage of every single second they’re with the WNT. Hatch is in good form right now, already a difference maker at her new club, playing alongside Mal Pugh at the Washington Spirit. This is McCaskill’s rookie season and Sky Blue FC has only played one game, but she already looks like she might have the right ingredients for a working partnership with Carli Lloyd.
Possible starting XI:
Updated USA roster:
DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 17/0), Tierna Davidson (Stanford; 4/0), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars; 4/0), Hailie Mace (UCLA; 0/0), Tegan McGrady (Stanford; 0/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC: 135/0), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC; 15/0)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 72/6), Haley Hanson (Houston Dash; 0/0), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 47/4), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 250/98), Allie Long (Seattle Reign FC; 35/6), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 9/0)
FORWARDS (7): Crystal Dunn (NC Courage; 60/23), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 1/0); Savannah McCaskill (Sky Blue FC; 4/0), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 138/81), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 33/9), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 133/35), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 19/4)
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Bianca Henninger (Houston Dash, USA), 12-Cecilia Santiago (Club América)
DEFENDERS (9): 2-Kenti Robles (Atlético Madrid, ESP), 3-Bianca Sierra (Thór / KA, ISL), 4-Vanessa Flores (West Virginia, USA), 5-Mónica Flores (Unattached), 13-Annia Mejía (Unattached), 14-Jocelyn Orejel (Colorado, USA), 16-Marcela Valera (Atlas FC), 22-Greta Espinoza (Levante, ESP), 23-Christina Murillo (Chicago Red Stars Reserves, USA)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 6-Karla Nieto (Pachuca), 7-Cristina Ferral (Olympique de Marseille, FRA), 10-Stephany Mayor (Thór / KA, ISL), 11-Mónica Ocampo (Pachuca), 17-María Sánchez (Santa Clara, USA)
FORWARDS (5): 8-Ariana Calderón (Thór / KA, ISL), 9-Anisa Guajardo (Sundsvalls DFF, SWE), 18-Kiana Palacios (Unattached), 19-Katie Johnson (Sky Blue FC, USA), 21-Renae Cuéllar (Unattached)
Schedule and how to watch:
USA vs Mexico
Thursday, April 5, 7 PM ET
EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL
TV: FS1, UDN