The United States women’s national team will kick of the 2018 Tournament of Nations against an opponent they know well: Japan. The United States has faced Japan in the last two World Cup finals, losing to them in 2011 and then making good in 2015. Now they face a squad that has been rebuilding towards 2019 with a mix of younger and more experienced players - a description that suits the United States equally as well.
Who to watch for:
On the Japanese, side, they have several dangerous attacking players. Nahomi Kawasumi will be familiar to NWSL fans as a player who can pull wide and drop a ball on a dime in the box. Less familiar, but no less dangerous for it, is Mina Tanaka, a central forward who has a good sense of awareness in the box and can sneak between center backs as well as run down direct balls and finish calmly at speed. Even though Australia pretty much ran roughshod over Japan at last year’s ToN, here’s a sample of what Tanaka offers around the 18:
On the United States side, there will of course be questions about the defense. Becky Sauerbrunn picked up a left leg injury with the Utah Royals and sat out their July 14 game against Orlando. Casey Short might be ready for full 90’s, but only recently started going full speed for Chicago after rehabbing her own injury. Morgan Brian, Rose Lavelle, and Sam Mewis are all at varying levels of match fitness, and Tobin Heath has been on and off in both form and health this season.
If you have to watch one player, keep an eye on McCall Zerboni. She’s forced her way into the conversation at midfield through sheer workrate and consistent high-level performance and could be a surprise contender for the World Cup roster. Crystal Dunn holding your attention should just be a given; the only question here is where on the field that might be.
Potential starting XI:
DEFENDERS (6): 7-Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 19/0), 12-Tierna Davidson (Stanford; 8/0), 11-Merritt Mathias (NC Courage; 1/0), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC; 139/0), 14-Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 21/0), 22-Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC; 17/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8): 6-Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars; 75/6), 2-Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 61/15), 9-Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 51/5), 16-Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit; 8/2), 10-Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 254/100), 3-Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 36/7), 20-Allie Long (Seattle Reign FC; 39/6), 5-McCall Zerboni (NC Courage; 2/0)
FORWARDS (6): 19-Crystal Dunn (NC Courage; 64/23), 17-Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 133/19), 13-Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 142/86), 23-Christen Press (Utah Royals FC; 100/44), 15-Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 137/37), 8-Amy Rodriguez (Utah Royals FC; 131/30)
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Sakiko Ikeda (Urawa Red Diamond Ladies), 18-Ayaka Yamashita (NTV Beleza), 21- Chika Hirao (Albirex Niigata Ladies)
DEFENDERS (7): 2-Ruma Utsugi (Seattle Reign FC, USA), 3-Aya Sameshima (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 4-Shiori Miyake (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 6-Saori Ariyoshi (NTV Beleza), 22-Risa Shimizu (NTV Beleza), 23-Aimi Kunitake (Nojima Stella Kanagawa Sagamihara)
MIDFIELDERS (8): 7-Emi Nakajima (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 12-Hikaru Naomoto (Sport Club Freiburg, GER), 14-Yui Hasegawa (NTV Beleza), 15-Moeno Sakaguchi (Albirex Niigata Ladies), 16-Rin Sumida (NTV Beleza), 17-Yuka Momiki (NTV Beleza Beleza), 19-Rika Masuya (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 24-Narumi Miura (NTV Beleza
FORWARDS (5): 8-Mana Iwabuchi (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 9-Nahomi Kawasumi (Seattle Reign FC, USA), 11-Mina Tanaka (NTV Beleza), 13-Yuika Sugasawa (Urawa Red Diamond Ladies), 20-Kumi Yokoyama (AC Nagano Parceiro Ladies)
Schedule, TV, and livestream:
Thursday, July 26
7 PM ET / 4 PM PT
Live on FS1
Stream on Fox Sports Go