The USWNT face Wales on Sunday in their final match before traveling to New Zealand for the World Cup. The match will mark the first and only friendly since the full squad was announced on June 21st. The squad is charged with the task of doing something that hasn’t been done before: win three straight World Cups. We examine three unanswered questions before the USWNT kicks off their World Cup Journey.
Perhaps the biggest question mark for the team ahead of the World Cup is, how many health packs do we need for New Zealand? Midfielder Rose Lavelle has been carrying a knee injury since the April friendly matches, and hasn’t had a great recovery process. Coach Vlatko has remained optimistic about Rose’s recovery, and has said she’ll get minutes in this next match.
Julie Ertz joined the NWSL late this season. After a slow start, and a few absences, she’s seemed to hit her stride with Angel City. It’s been nothing but good news from her, having played a full 90 minutes in her last four matches. The team will likely be leaning on her to reclaim her role as the Iron Horse.
Kelley O’Hara has had her injury struggles in the last few seasons, but she’s finding her form again at Gotham FC. With Becky Sauerbrunn withdrawing due to injury, the team will be relying on her experience to anchor the back line with fellow veteran, Crystal Dunn. My wish for her is good health, and a continued 60-minute-a-match average.
Who’s got goals?
The USWNT front line was dealt a huge blow when Mallory Swanson went down with a knee injury against Ireland in April. Swanson, a 2022 nominee for BioSteel Player of the Year, was a vital piece of the team’s attacking core. Look to Sophia Smith and Lynn Williams to work their speed on the wings and use their creative vision to unlock scoring opportunities in the final third.
The Starting XI
Injuries and club performance may have a say in who makes the first Starting XI for the squad. Alyssa Naeher had some shaky moments for the Chicago Red Stars, calling her starting role into question for some. Naeher’s had to deal with things outside her control, from injuries to the Chicago defense corps, to the ever-present front office issues plaguing the Red Stars organization. Still, even in the face of all these struggles, Naeher has shown that she can still lock it down with the game on the line. In perhaps her most impressive game of the season, she shut out the Orlando Pride to earn the win for her 150th Cap celebration.
Let’s project a lineup
In Goal: Alyssa Naeher
Defenders: Crystal Dunn, Naomi Girma, Alana Cook, Kelley O’Hara
Midfield: Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle
Forwards: Alex Morgan, Sophia Smith, Lynn Williams
Can the USWNT send off in style? Tune in Sunday at 4PM Eastern on TNT and Telemundo to find out!