The countdown is becoming a little more real. The 2015 Women’s World Cup is less than 60 days away, making it feel more real with each passing moment. The USWNT had been struggling to get results in friendlies, and have been looking to reverse the trend before the showcase event this summer. The team played New Zealand this past weekend in St. Louis, but still have three more friendlies to get into form.
There is a positive trend for the USWNT right now. Despite a draw in the group stage of the Algarve Cup, they were still able to advance to the Final. There they defeated France 2-0 to claim the title. Its not all sunshine and rainbows though, as the team has been exploited and given up multiple goals at critical stages in the game. Now that major players have recovered from nagging injuries, Jill Ellis’ squad is beginning to play like the contender that they are.
The women’s side of football is a little different, as many players will take off their domestic seasons in order to prepare for the World Cup. For the US, Abby Wambach is taking this approach. Who knows if it will pay off, but it is certainly something to watch for as we embark upon a short journey to Canada this summer.
They did have a game recently in St. Louis against New Zealand. In fact, they broke the all-time record for attendance for a friendly. 35,817 spectators were on hand to witness second half dominance from the US in a 4-0 victory at Busch Stadium. A 4-0 margin is very encouraging, especially considering that New Zealand have also qualified for the Women’s World Cup and are considered by many to be a dark horse in the tournament. Either way, The Kiwis didn’t have a single shot on goal, a promising sign that the US defense might be improving.
With Hope Solo back on the team and playing, it seems that Jill Ellis has one position locked up for the World Cup. The front line is pretty set as well, having a multitude of attackers to choose from. In fact, she cannot get them all on the pitch. Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Sydney Leroux, the list seems to go on and on. Either way, the forward position is also pretty set for the World Cup. Ellis has been experimenting with different midfield combinations, and has been tinkering with the back line as well. The team has a mix of veterans and youth that are sure to get some playing time, including Tobin Heath, Morgan Brian, and Megan Rapinoe.
Speaking of Rapinoe, the New Zealand match represented her 100th cap for the USWNT. This is quite the accomplishment for any international player, and Rapinoe deserves a round of applause for her contribution to the team. She will be one of the critical pieces if the US is going to advance deep into the tournament this summer.
The US has three more friendlies to get everything ironed about before heading to Winnipeg for their first group game. Throughout the month of May, The US plays Ireland and Mexico in California, while having their final friendly against South Korea in Harrison, New Jersey. Mexico and South Korea will also be headed to Canada for the World Cup, but Ireland failed to qualify. Avoiding injuries and major letdowns will be a huge part of these matches.
The US have their first group match in Winnipeg on June 8th against Australia. The next match is four days later against Sweden, also in Winnipeg. The Swedes are led by former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage, who led the US to a runner-up finish in the last edition of the World Cup. After Sweden, the final group match will be against Nigeria in Vancouver. If they place in the top two of their group, they will automatically progress to the knockout stages. If they finish 3rd, they will have to wait for Groups E and F to finish play. If they are one of the four best 3rd place teams, they will progress to the knockout stage. The bottom two 3rd placed teams will be eliminated. This expanded format will be a first for the Women’s World Cup, so it will be very interesting to see how it is played out.
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