Preview: USWNT Take On New Zealand in St. Louis

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By MC BOUSQUETTE
Staff Writer

The final countdown to the Women’s World Cup is upon us as the US Women’s National Team takes on New Zealand in St. Louis; the first of seven matches before the Women’s World Cup commences.

Saturday’s match against 17th ranked New Zealand will not be an easy one; the squad, who are not to be taken lightly despite their place outside of the top-ten, pose a threat to the United States. The young New Zealand squad has plenty of international experience as they play in a wide range of leagues, from NWSL to Bundesliga. New Zealand has depth throughout the lineup, with particular players to be watched including striker Amber Hearn, an essential goalscorer, and defender Abby Erce, who captains the team.

In the time since the Algarve Cup from which the United States emerged victorious over France in the final, US Coach Jill Ellis released the roster for the last several friendlies before the United States opens World Cup play on June 8th vs. Australia. The roster includes exactly the 25 same players present on the Algarve Cup roster, though the actual starting lineup remains murky. The ever-present question of the optimal lineup for the United States side looms, and the time for Ellis to come up with it has almost run out, with only seven friendly matches remaining.

The squad is almost entirely back from injury, and keeper Hope Solo has noticeable regained her mojo after completing her suspension. Solo recently launched her personal website, sharing her journey back to the team during the suspension, as well as her positive outlook for the squad as it approaches the World Cup. The one player with a question mark over her head is defender Christie Rampone, who will miss the match due to an MCL strain incurred last week during team training in Los Angeles.

Ellis will likely maintain the same back line, composed of (from left to right) Meghan Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, and Ali Krieger. Hope Solo is, similarly, a lock to start at keeper. The midfield and forward lines are ever-rotating, with a plethora of options. Lauren Holiday and Morgan Brian are likely starters at center midfield, as are Christen Press and Carli Lloyd, on the outside.

The forward line is, however, decidedly less predictable. Alex Morgan is very likely to start at striker, though Ellis has several solid options for the other striker in Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux. Expect to see Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe at some point early in the second half; their experience and leadership is key to the squad’s success.

Saturday should prove to be a heated battle between the two sides, as they will approach the match with the vigor required only a mere two months from the opening of the World Cup.

The United States take on New Zealand this Saturday, April 4th, at 4pm EST (Fox Sports 1).

 


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