Having earned a late-ish win over Australia and a grinder of a draw with Sweden, the US faces what's on paper their easiest test of the Group Stage. A win means they win the group and face a third-place team from Groups B, E, or F. Coming out of the Group of Death, that would likely be a considerable drop in the degree of difficulty and the US would have a pretty clear path to facing China in the next round, in a replay of the 1999 World Cup final.
Even a draw would get the US a group win if Australia doesn't beat 5th ranked Sweden. A loss opens up the possibility of a second- or even third-place finish and the lingering doubts about this incarnation of the team would come back with a vengeance.
Nigeria opened the tournament with a wild 3-3 draw with Sweden then fell 2-0 in a physical, foul-heavy match with Australia. That looks like a defense that the Americans can exploit with their absurdly deep attacking lineup. But there's no doubt that the Super Falcons will be motivated. A loss eliminates them, and advancing even with a draw is very unlikely. They know they need a win to have a realistic chance to stay in the tournament. That too can create opportunities for the US attack against a desperate opponent. But that desperation is a danger if Nigeria's fast attackers can get forward in numbers.
What to Watch
- Asisat Oshoala - The 20-year-old Oshoala is already one of the most talented attackers in the world. She won the Golden Boot at last year's U20 World Cup, signed with Liverpool this season, and just won the BBC's inaugural Women's Footballer of the Year award. Needless to say, she is by far the most dangerous threat on the Nigeria squad. If the US defense, led by real-life Valkyrie Julie Johnston, can shut Oshoala down, it would border the impossible for the rest of the Nigeria squad to outscore the Americans over 90 minutes.
- Another Record for Solo - Last summer the US #1 Hope Solo broke Brianna Scurry's national team shutout record. Tonight, if she starts, she will match Scurry's record of 173 national team caps for a keeper. We already know Solo is the best women's keeper in the world (no matter how FIFA votes). Now she's making it hard to argue she's not the best keeper of all time.
- Finding a US midfield - With an arsenal of attacking options and a worrying lack of holding midfielders, Jill Ellis has opted to jam attacking players into the midfield to get them on the field. That means attacking midfielder Lauren Holiday has been pushed back toward the defense and forward Christen Press has been press-ganged into the central midfield. That has caused structural problems for the US which may not be exposed by this Nigeria team, but could be increasingly problematic against other title contenders. This match is, at least, another chance for Ellis to explore options.
How to Watch
Match date/time: Tuesday, 5:00 p.m. PT
Venue: BC Place, Vancouver, Canada
TV: Fox, NBC Universo (Spanish)
Online: FOX Sports Go and FOX Soccer 2 Go(a paid service that requires no TV subscription); NBC Deportes En Vivo(Spanish)