The United States women’s national team has outscored their group opponents at Olympic qualifying 12-0 so far, so you could say it’s going well for them. It took a little bit for them to warm up against Haiti, but with some rotation and a game under their belts, they looked better against Panama. The last game of the group stage is against Costa Rica, which will probably be their biggest hurdle, although one they should clear.
Scouting Costa Rica
Costa Rica looked fairly confident against Haiti, who they beat 2-0 in their second game of qualifying. Rocky Rodriguez tallied the brace for Costa Rica, although Haiti were absolutely not pushovers. As an aside, Haiti are a team who have showed clear improvement through the last cycle, and hopefully their federation has taken notice that with more investment and development, they could be regular regional challengers.
But back to Costa Rica, who will present the most defensive challenges to the United States in the group stage. Rocky Rodriguez is a known entity, a top midfielder who just moved from Sky Blue to the Portland Thorns and can distribute as well as arrive late and shoot from any distance. She and Shirley Cruz’s midfield partnership will be key for Costa Rica, particularly given the United States’ high-pressure midfield in order to start their attacking as close to the opponents’ goal as possible. Costa Rica also can’t afford to give away defensive space the way they sometimes did to Haiti; any room at the top of the box will be an invitation for multiple players to score, among them Lynn Williams, Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle, and Lindsey Horan.
Costa Rica roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Noelia Bermudez (Codea), 13-Dinnia Diaz (Saprissa), 18-Priscilla Tapia (Herediano)
DEFENDERS (8): 2-Gabriela Guillen (Saprissa), 3-Maria Paula Coto (Herediano), 4-Mariana Benavides (Herediano), 5-Fabiola Sanchez (Codea), 6-Carol Sanchez (Herediano), 8-Daniela Cruz (Espanyol, ESP), 12-Lixy Rodriguez (Codea), 15-Stephannie Blanco (Codea)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 9-Gloriana Villalobos (Saprissa), 10-Shirley Cruz (Codea), 11-Raquel Rodriguez (Portland Thorns FC, USA), 16-Katherine Alvarado (Espanyol, ESP), 20-Raquel Chacon (Codea)
FORWARDS (4): 7-Melissa Herrera (Stade Reims, FRA), 14-Priscila Chinchilla (Codea), 17-Maria Paula Salas (Codea), 19-Jazmin Elizondo (Herediano)
The USWNT roster
Don’t be surprised if Vlatko Andonovski shifts his roster again. He may even give Adrianna Franch some time in goal, after playing Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris for the first two games. The US is guaranteed to advance, so what better time to give Franch - a contender for eventual starting GK after the end of the current World Cup-Olympic cycle - important minutes, and against a team that should be more attacking than Panama or Haiti?
Costa Rica probably also calls for Vlatko’s first choice centerback pairing in Becky Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper, although once again, with a semifinal spot guaranteed, this would be the game to go buck wild. He may rest Lynn Williams and Rose Lavelle after starting them two games in a row, and you can probably expect the return of Carli Lloyd. It would be nice for Andi Sullivan to have more time, as well as consecutive starts, especially considering she did well against Panama. You can add Tobin Heath to the nice-to-see list too, as her short but productive time against Panama calls for more.
Time, TV, and streaming options
USA vs Costa Rica
Monday, February 3
8:30 PM ET / 5:30 PM PT
Stream with Fubo (free trial)
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