Following a subpar showing at the summer’s World Cup, the United States Women’s National Team opened the new era with two wins against South Africa. The program is still without a manager, which is of increasing concern as the 2024 Olympic Games draws ever closer. However, the rudderless road to redemption continues with a pair of friendlies against Colombia. The first match is set for America First Field in Sandy, Utah, a 20,000-seat venue that was recently renovated and features Kentucky Bluegrass sod; San Diego, California’s Snapdragon Stadium, a 35,000-seat arena that opened in September of 2022 with “spongy Bermuda Latitude 36” grass, hosts the second fixture.
These are the 11th and 12th all-time meetings between the two nations, with the USWNT holding a 9-0-1 advantage and triumphing in both of last summer’s friendlies. Ranked 22nd internationally by FIFA, Colombia reached the quarterfinal round at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, the best finish in program history. Las Chicas Superpoderosas (The Powerpuff Girls) topped Group H with a 2-0 win over South Korea, a 2-1 victory against Germany, and a 1-0 loss to Morocco. In the knockout stage, a 1-0 triumph over Jamaica in the Round of 16 was followed by a 2-1 defeat to eventual runners-up England.
Colombia is currently without a manager following the departure of Nelson Abadía, whose work and style led to criticism from local media. In the interim, the program is stewarded by former assistant Ángelo Marsiglia, who led the team during the first two matches at the World Cup. Due to his familiarity with the squad and success in the technical area, he is considered one of the favorites to be offered the position on a permanent basis.
Marsiglia named a 23-player roster that camped in Bogotá before departing for the pair of friendlies. All-time leading scorer Catalina Usme is out with an injury sustained during the Copa Libertadores Femenina. Veterans Mayra Ramirez and Diana Ospina are also absent due to health reasons. Werder Bremen goalkeeper Catalina Pérez was a late scratch and unable to join the group.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Stefany Castaño (Santa Fe), Sandra Sepúlveda (Independiente Medellín), Natalia Giraldo (América de Cali)
DEFENDERS (7): Daniela Arias (América de Cali), Ángela Barón (Atlético Nacional), Ana María Guzmán (Bayern Munich), Carolina Arias (Santa Fe), Jorelyn Carabalí (Brighton & Hove Albion), Mónica Ramos (Grêmio), Daniela Caracas (Espanyol)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Manuela Vanegas (Real Sociedad), Lorena Bedoya Durango (Real Brasília), Daniela Montoya (Atlético Nacional), María Camila Reyes (Santa Fe), Marcela Restrepo (Atlético Nacional), Leicy Santos (Atlético Madrid), Lady Andrade (Real Brasília), Gabriela Huertas (Santa Fe)
FORWARDS (5): Linda Caicedo (Real Madrid), Ivonne Chacón (Valencia), Elexa Bahr (América de Cali), Ingrid Yobana (Atlético Mineiro), Yisela Cuesta (Ferroviária)
The previous manager deployed a fairly static 4-2-3-1 formation with little movement between the lines. Colombia’s wingers “took high, aggressive positions” to harry the opposing fullbacks and create counter-attacking opportunities. According to Total Football Analysis, the team is “fast-paced and direct,” frequently failing to maintain possession due to “poor technical quality in the build-up and poor movement to progress the ball.”
With regular number one Pérez out of the squad, capable and experienced veteran Sandra Sepúlveda slides into the role. The 35-year-old competes in the domestic league with Independiente Medellín and was voted the best goalkeeper at the 2014 Copa América Femenina. Standing at 5’6”, she is very light on her feet and displays springy athleticism when making saves.
At centre-back is Daniela Arias of América de Cali, who uses her speed to chase down opposing attackers attempting to get behind the back-line. She is a strong, physical presence, winning headers and willing to go to ground for a clattering slide tackle. Completing the duo is Brighton & Hove Albion’s Jorelyn Carabalí, recently signed from Atlético Mineiro. The 26-year-old “fierce competitor” is disciplined and strong in the air, but there is said to be a weakness in one-on-one duels.
LATE DRAMA— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 30, 2023
MANUELA VANEGAS RECLAIMS THE 2-1 LEAD FOR COLOMBIA IN STOPPAGE TIME! pic.twitter.com/n5wlUodzO6
Lining up at left fullback is Manuela Vanegas of Real Sociedad, who scored the game-winning goal in the thrilling victory over Germany at the World Cup. With the flexibility to play centre-back, she is strong in the air and can also deliver a scintillating finish on free kicks. On the other side of the formation is Carolina Arias, who moved to Independiente Santa Fe over the summer. The 33-year-old will make deep runs into the final third and consistently finds teammates with the ball. There’s also likely to be a significant contribution from Ana María Guzmán, a recent Bayern Munich signing. The teenager demonstrates “composure with the ball, a strong special awareness,” and a willingness to engage in one-on-one duels that are well beyond her years.
Lorena Bedoya of Real Brasília patrols the center of the field, capable of contributing on the defensive and attacking sides of the game. She reads the opponents’ passes, throws herself into tackles, and plays a few dangerous balls of her own. Atlético Nacional’s Daniela Montoya is a versatile midfielder who has taken a role further up the formation. The 33-year-old from Medellín works hard to win back possession and thrives when creating transition moments out of the build-up. At the top of the triangle is the creative Leicy Santos, who competes in Spain’s Liga F with Atlético Madrid and scored a “stunning” goal in the quarterfinal loss to England. A true maestro, her incisive passing and goal-scoring touch enable her to wreak havoc in the final third.
Colombia has a true star at left winger, 18-year-old Linda Caicedo who enjoyed the rare distinction of appearing at three different World Cups this year. Competing at the club level with Real Madrid, she is noted for her brilliant dribbling, long-distance shooting, and sublime touch on the ball. Her speed and creativity allow for her to thrive both on the outside and inside of the formation while constantly moving into open space. The dextral complement is Marcela Restrepo of domestic side Atlético Nacional. Observers praise her “intelligence, patience, and strategy,” which combine with a high level of creativity and willingness to engage in physical battles with opponents.
With Usme out of the roster, the striker responsibilities will likely fall upon the shoulders of Lady Andrade. The 31-year-old attacker competes with Real Brasília and has seen her influence with the national team decline over the past decade, but this friendly presents an opportunity to reestablish herself in the pecking order. She can be devastatingly clever with the ball at her feet, opening up space with all manner of moves. Playing without a defined striker, her role will likely be more of the supplementary kind, feeding the wingers.
With several veterans on the squad over the age of 30, this Colombian generation is looking for one last hurrah at the upcoming Paris Olympics. The USWNT is likely to shuffle the deck even sooner, attempting a miniature rebuild before next summer under the eventual new manager. Despite the shrinking gap between the two programs, the hosts should still have the depth of talent to win both friendlies comfortably.
The first match is scheduled for Thursday, October 26th at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include Max, TBS, Universo, Peacock, Telemundo Deportes, and FUBO TV (free trial).
The second match is scheduled for Sunday, October 29th at 5:30 p.m. Eastern, 2:30 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include Max, TNT, Universo, Telemundo, Peacock, and FUBO TV (free trial).