USWNT wraps up 2016 with two matches against Romania

macdonald (1)

by TOM SLATER

The United States Women’s National Team will mark its last games of 2016 with another first.

When the United State takes the field against Romania Thursday, it will mark the first time the two countries have met on the women’s side. Romania will be the 51st international opponent for the United States in its history and the Americans will play them twice in four days.

The United States will face Romania Thursday at Avaya Stadium in San Jose (10 p.m. ET; ESPN2) and again on Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson (9:30 p.m.  ET; FS1).

Currently 36th  in the latest FIFA rankings, Romania finished second behind France in Group 3 of Qualifying for the 2017 UEFA Women’s Euro, surpassing Ukraine, Greece and Albania in its group. Romania had a strong showing in the Qualifying round. It lost to world power France only 3-0 in its first game of the Qualifying round, but bounced back to tie Ukraine 2-2 and defeat Albania, 3-0 and Greece, 3-1. On the second match of the home-and-away series, Romania started a lot more confident and loss to France by a slim margin of 1-0.

All in all, Romania outscored its group opponents 17-8 throughout the eight-game Qualifying tournament. Their second place finish in the group earned the Balkan nation a spot in the playoffs against Portugal, as these two were the two group runner-ups with the worst record, for the final berth to the 16-nation tournament being held in the Netherlands.

In the playoffs, Portugal and Romania drew 0-0 in the first leg in Portugal, but a 1-1 draw in Romania gave Portugal the final berth to the Euros next summer on away goals despite being tied on aggregate.

The United States will end the calendar year continuing to tinker with its team pool. Two new players look for their first cap as Jess McDonald and Emily Menges were called into camp by coach Jill Ellis. The two National Women Soccer League (NWSL) players replace Jaelene Hinkle and Meghan Klingenberg. Hinkle suffered an ankle injury and Klingenberg has a back injury.

McDonald is coming off a solid year with the 2016 NWSL Champion Western New York Flash. She started 19 games and scored 10 goals, second-most on the team behind NWSL MVP and Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams, as well as second-most in the league. She finished in the top three in league standings for most assists (7), most shots (61) and most shots on goal (34). In the NWSL Championship game, McDonald provided the crucial assist to Williams that allowed the Flash to tie the match in the 124thminute.

In her third season as a professional player, Menges started all NWSL regular season 20 games and played every minute for the 2016 NWSL Shield winners Portland Thorns. She was part of a back line that allowed just 19 goals all year, the fewest in the league, and racked up an 8-1-1 home record.

The Americans have a record of 20-0-3 but were a disappointment in the Summer Olympics, falling to Sweden in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw in regulation and extra time. That match is officially recorded as a tie. Their exit was the earliest in either Olympics or World Cup play.

With no tournaments or meaningful qualifying matches for at least a year, Ellis is using every opportunity to assess new talent.

Besides the two additions, Ellis has brought in Casey Short, Andi Sullivan, Kealia Ohai and Williams for looks. Both Williams and Ohai scored their first international goals against Switzerland in less than a minute after each came into the game.

The United States will also be missing Carli Lloyd, who recently was married

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Emily Menges (Portland Thorns FC), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Kristen Edmonds (Orlando Pride), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign), Andi Sullivan (Stanford)

FORWARDS (6): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Jessica McDonald (Western New York Flash), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Lynn Williams (Western New York Flash)

Romania Women’s National Team Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (2): 
Roxana Oprea (Olimpia Cluj), Linda Kajtar

DEFENDERS (5): Andreea Corduneanu (Olimpia Cluj), Lidia Havristiuc (Olimpia Cluj), Maria Ficzay (Medyk Konin, POL), Ana Maria Gorea (ASA Târgu Mures), Teodora Meluta (Olimpia Cluj)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Ioana Bortan (Olimpia Cluj), Adina Giurgiu (Olimpia Clurj), Raluca Sarghe (Konak Belediyespor, TUR), Ştefania Vătafu (Olimpia Cluj), Andreea Voicu (Olimpia Cluj), Beatrice Tarasila (Olimpia Cluj), Cristina Carp (Olimpia Clurj)

FORWARDS (5): Laura Rus (Icheon Daekyo, KOR), Alexandra Lunca (Olimpia Cluj), Mara Batea (Olimpia Cluj), Mihaela Ciolacu (Olimpia Cluj), Loredana Popa (Olimpia