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USA vs China game 2 preview: a coherent midfield?

Who will be healthy and how will it affect roster rotation?

Soccer: International Friendly Women's Soccer-China PR at USA Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

In game one of this pair of USA vs China friendlies, the USWNT managed to pull off a 1-0 win from a set piece. They otherwise had a difficult time breaking down a patient and disciplined Chinese defense. Some midfielders had flat out bad days and some looked sluggishly dull. McCall Zerboni played a bit like she knew her future with the team depended on it, and Crystal Dunn was probably the best player in three different positions in one game, but there were too many passes gone awry, too many moves into the wrong spaces or no space at all.

So how will the team adapt this time around? Will Ellis repeat her three defenders and one wingback but a with little shuffling, based on how much Becky Sauerbrunn struggled not to expose the space behind her? Will she attempt to plug every hole in the formation with Crystal Dunn? Will the midfield be able to string together more than three passes at a time in tight spaces? Could Morgan Brian and Tobin Heath be the change up the midfield needs? Maybe this is the time to start Mewis and Zerboni together? “The plan was to kind of rotate a little bit through the midfield. Sometimes when you do that you lose a little bit of rhythm,” Jill Ellis said at a press conference following game 1.

We can probably expect some roster rotation here. Ashlyn Harris and Casey Murphy may be the goalkeepers dressed for this game after Alyssa Naeher and Abby Smith were the pairing for game one. Defender Merritt Mathias didn’t get off the bench, which was surely frustrating as she watched Sauerbrunn struggle at right back. Brian dressed for the first game, but might still be struggling to get totally match fit based on her struggle to stay healthy in France.

Tobin Heath and Rose Lavelle didn’t dress for the game - in the same postgame presser, Ellis said Heath was “just a little bit tight” making her a precautionary scratch, and that not dressing Lavelle was being “respectful of her travel and time played with her club team.” Heath could dress for game 2, but fans might prefer Lavelle and her recovering hamstring to stay safe on the sidelines.

There was no shortage of players who could make the intelligent run in the last game, Chinese organization notwithstanding, but neither Lindsey Horan nor Savannah McCaskill were able to set up the threaded ball, making Dunn and her crosses one of the only avenues of attack in open play. The United States had 11 shots, three SOG, and a whopping 12 corner kicks against China, and yet barely came away with that 1-0. But for Alyssa Naeher, it could have easily been a tie. We’ll find out if game 1 was just a matter of shaking off the rust after two months apart, allowing for a much steadier game two.


GOALKEEPERS (4): 24- Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 15/0), 18-Casey Murphy (Montpellier HSC, FRA; 0/0), 1- Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 28/0), 21- Abby Smith (Utah Royals FC; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (6): 7- Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 18/0), 2- Tierna Davidson (Stanford; 6/0), 14-Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars; 5/0), 27- Merritt Mathias (Seattle Reign FC; 0/0), 4- Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC; 137/0)

MIDFIELDERS (8): 6- Morgan Brian (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 74/6), 8- Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 59/15); 9- Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 49/5), 16- Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit; 7/2), 10-Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 252/100); 3- Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 34/7); 20- Allie Long (Seattle Reign; 37/6), 25- McCall Zerboni (NC Courage; 1/0)

FORWARDS (7): 19- Crystal Dunn (NC Courage, ENG; 62/23), 17- Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns; 132/18), 26- Savannah McCaskill (Sky Blue FC; 5/0), 13- Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 140/85), 23-Christen Press (Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, SWE; 98/44), 15- Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign; 135/36), 12- Amy Rodriguez (Utah Royals FC; 130/30)


Tuesday, June 12
7 PM ET / 4 PM PT
FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
Streaming: WatchESPN