So you lost 3-1 to France. What next?
That’s probably one question on Jill Ellis’ mind as she prepares the US women’s national team to take on Spain in their second away friendly following 2019 January camp.
Spain is not France, but neither are they a team to write off. Spain has been steadily building up its women’s program, particularly through development of youth teams, and if they’re not quite an international power yet, they probably will be by 2023. But this is 2019, and for now, this should be a game the Americans can use to rally.
The other question Ellis will want answered depends on who’s available for this roster. Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz, Casey Short, and Kelley O’Hara were all unavailable for the game against France, while Rose Lavelle, Danny Colaprico, McCall Zerboni, and Andi Sullivan were dressed but did not sub on. So will we get a repeat starting XI from France, testing the same set under new conditions? It might be worth it to give Sam Mewis a start in that deeper midfield spot that Morgan Brian somewhat struggled with against France. Also, even though I hate to say it, starting Crystal Dunn at fullback and putting Lavelle in the midfield.
We’ll also see if the speed of play improves; everyone looked a little out of their depth against France (well, except Christen Press) and fluid attacking can’t happen if everyone is a half-step off from where they need to be. And if the fullbacks, whoever that ends up being, can help put numbers up in the midfield instead of getting isolated and beaten like against France, that’ll drastically change how the team looks.
It might be tempting to want attacking lynchpins Rapinoe and Heath in this game, but if there’s the smallest doubt they’re not ready, there shouldn’t be a rush to play them. After all, the United States will have more quality opponents before the World Cup, with Japan, England, Brazil, and Australia all on the schedule. This is a good time to see how a rotated roster copes with a short travel schedule between away games.
Projected starting XI
Time, TV, and livestream
USA vs Spain
Tuesday, January 22
2:30 PM ET / 11:30 AM PT
Stream on ESPN, Sling TV