There is almost no bigger USWNT fan than Dana Crane, a die-hard FCD supporter, former Inferno president and all around great gal. She's graciously written this preview that should be a fantastic resource to everyone heading out to the sold out FC Dallas Stadium for tomorrow's match. Enjoy!
By Dana Crane
Previewing the US Women's Team
As for the home side, Pia Sundhage has called 28 players to camp here in North Texas. All of the World Cup roster players are here, with the exception of Ali Krieger. Krieger received tears to the MCL and ACL in her right knee as the result of an utterly useless tackle after she’d taken a shot during the first game of the Olympic Qualifier tournament in Vancouver.
The team has been rolling out a new 4-2-3-1 formation since returning from Germany and I’ve liked what I’ve seen. Look no further than the most dominating performance during a tournament from the USWNT than has been shown in years in Vancouver as proof that Sundhage has found a way to get the best out of her players. Mostly for my benefit, I’ll break down the roster called to camp on a position by position basis. Bolded are the players I expect to make the day of game roster on Saturday.
Goalkeepers: Nicole Barnhart, Ashlyn Harris, Jill Loyden, Hope Solo
Unless Sundhage decides to throw a total curveball and rest Solo’s shoulder, which was reinjured during her turn on Dancing With the Stars, expect to see her in goal for at least the first half. Barnhart will likely be the backup keeper named to the roster. Personally, I’d love to see WPS’ 2011 Goalkeeper of the Year, Ashlyn Harris, make the day of game roster and get her first cap. She’s more than earned it as she helped the Western New York Flash win the WPS Championship this year.
Defenders: Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, Whitney Engen, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn
Rampone and Buehler will likely be the starting center backs (with the possibility of Sauerbrunn replacing Buehler). The outside backs are where things are fun right now. As mentioned earlier, Ali Krieger isn’t available due to injury and she’d been holding down the right back position. Mitts has been her backup since Krieger took the spot over from her midway thru 2010. LePeilbet was starting at left back during the World Cup but a few lingering minor injuries have seen her coming off the bench.
The surprise going into the Qualifier tourney was that Cox was left off the travel roster in place of Kelley O’Hara. O’Hara started her college career at Stanford as a forward but was moved to midfield by the time she graduated. During the training for the Qualifiers, she began getting converted to an outside back. In Vancouver, she played one game at left back and then was moved over to right back for her appearances in the remaining games.
She even earned two starts (including the final v Canada) over Mitts. Her defending in those games was solid when taking into account the level of opponents the US faced. Sundhage likes her outside backs to move up into the attack, much like Hyndman does, and O’Hara is skilled at that. Her crosses whipped into the box were brilliant. If she plays at right back vs New Zealand, she may get to directly play against one of her best friends, Ali Riley.
Midfielders: Yael Averbuch, Shannon Boxx, Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg, Lori Lindsey, Carli Lloyd, Kristie Mewis, Christine Nairn, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, Amy Rodriguez, Keelin Winters
Boxx and Lloyd will likely be holding down things in the center of the midfield. The new formation that Sundhage is employing has them both sitting above the back line but frees Lloyd up to become more involved on the attacking end of the field. When on her game, she’s truly a joy to watch but if she’s not she’ll remind many FCD fans of an unmotivated Carlos Ruiz. By that I mean, she’s truly talented but will play often play lazy and uninspired.
Reilly will be patrolling the right flank in fine style. She’s hard working and skilled. If you watch the video for the 10 finalists for the 2011 FIFA Puskas Goal of the Year at the 5:34 mark (http://youtu.be/Nfl4LJNUzrM) , you will get to see her goal from the WWC vs Columbia. The goal was the first by any woman to make the final 10 list for the FIFA award.
Odds are you’ll see Amy Rodriguez starting on the left flank. She, quite delightfully, found her goal scoring prowess once again during the Olympic Qualifiers when she scored 5 goals as a second half sub against the Dominican Republic. Rapinoe (easily identifiable by her bleach blonde hairstyle) might also get the starting nod in this position.
Forwards: Lauren Cheney, Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach
The lone striker out top will likely be Wambach.You’ve all seen the highlight from the WWC this summer and I shouldn’t need to tell you more.I think her forehead should be named a national landmark after that stunning equalizer in the quarterfinal v Brazil.
The withdrawn forward (middle of the 3 line) will likely be Cheney. This role is making her game shine that much more. She’ll be taking the bulk of the corner kicks and free kicks around the outside of the penalty box. This withdrawn position allows her to be more involved in the game and her vision for what needs to happen to get a shot on goal for herself or someone else is fantastic. Look for a lot of the run of the attacking setups to run through her.
Morgan will likely be brought on as a sub in the second half for Wambach. She’s an attacker through and through. She’s got a nose for goal and will put her body on the line to get the job done. Look past the slight figure, the trademark pink pre-wrap headband, and Bambi eyes. She’s a wolf looking for her next meal every single minute she’s on the pitch. Baby Horse (her nickname because she runs like one) is an outside possibility to start the match as Wambach has been battling an achillies injury for over a year now.
With only 18 on the day of game roster, I don’t think LeRoux will get the nod. She just graduated from UCLA and will certainly get her time to shine. As a second half sub against Guatemala, she netted 5 goals. As she did so, she was jeered by Canadian fans with chants calling her Judas. She grew up in British Columbia has dual citizenship and chose the USWNT over the CanWNT so that was a compelling storyline for the Qualifiers.
Previewing New Zealand
New Zealand brings to Texas a team that is looking to gain more experience on the international level. The most capped player on their roster is Hayley Moorwood (69 caps, 7 goals), a midfielder who played for Chelsea Ladies in the 2011 FAWSL season. At the other end of the spectrum, they’ve got two players who have never earned a cap for the Football Ferns (Erin Nayler - GK and Holly Patterson – F).
Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about the roster top to bottom. They finished last in their group at the Women’s World Cup last year in Germany. The Kiwis were in Group B with the eventual champions, Japan. They did earn their first point in World Cup play in a 2-2 draw vs Mexico during their final match of the tournament. The appearance in Germany was their 3rd in the World Cup.
The individuals I’m most familiar with are defenders Ali Riley and Ria Percival.
Riley (52 caps, 1 goal) was a standout during her college years at Stanford. She began her career there as a forward but was converted to an outside back during her junior year. In addition to being insanely likeable off the pitch, she’s now one of the best left backs in the women’s game. Riley’s defending helped both teams she was on win the last two WPS championships (FC Gold Pride 2010 and Western NY Flash 2011). Riley noted on her twitter account (@RileyThree) that she might be a little confused when playing the US since she’s been teammates with 10 of the women on the USWNT roster.
Percival (59 caps, 7 goals) has been playing her soccer over in Germany as a member of the FFC Frankfurt in Frauen Bundesliga. She’s appeared in 11 of their games this season and regularly makes appearances as the backup to USWNT player, Ali Krieger. She’s a solid right back that will sometimes play as an inside midfielder.