The U.S. Women’s National Team will play one final match before departing for Brazil and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Tonight’s sendoff game is against Costa Rica and kicks off on ESPN at 6:00 p.m. PT.
The 18-person roster is now set, with Seattle Reign FC’s Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo making it onto the squad. I’d be shocked if Solo didn’t get the start tonight, while it’s unlikely Rapinoe will see any time. After an amazing recovering from an ACL tear suffered in December, she picked up a calf injury during training two weeks ago, and it appears Ellis doesn’t want to risk her before the Olympics.
Megan Rapinoe on her calf injury: "It’s just not ready yet. It just needs a few more days."— John D. Halloran (@JohnDHalloran) July 22, 2016
Jill Ellis: "We’re being uber-conservative."
Bringing an injured player onto an already tight roster is a big risk, but if there’s anyone whose skill-set could be a late-match asset, it’s Rapinoe. Her unpredictability on the ball and set-piece and crossing skills could come in handy if the U.S. need to push for a late goal. That is, if she’s healthy enough to play by August.
While the U.S. is 13-0-0 against Costa Rica, this isn’t a squad that should be discounted. They are led by captain Shirley Cruz, who has played with Lindsey Horan and Tobin Heath at PSG in France, scoring 23 goals in 94 matches with the French club. Raquel Rodriguez, a midfielder with Sky Blue in the NWSL, is another important cog in the Costa Rican offense. The U.S. will want to ensure she doesn’t have the time to link with Cruz and some of Costa Rica’s other speedy forwards.
For the USWNT, this match will be an important test for Carli Lloyd, who has played just one match since injuring her knee in April. Lloyd looked rusty in that friendly against South Africa. If Jill Ellis is going to build this team around her, getting Lloyd back to full match strength and fitness will be critical.
Finding the right midfield and front-line trio will be important as well. Ellis has come out with a more traditional 4-3-3, with Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, and Crystal Dunn along the front line. But she’s also opted for a more aggressive offensive lineup, playing Christen Press right behind Alex Morgan as a withdrawn forward.
This match gives Ellis one final time to experiment with her Starting XI for the first match in Rio. Most importantly, I’m hoping the team finds some good rhythm and that nobody gets injured.
How to Watch
When: Friday, July 22, 2016, 6:00 p.m. PT
Where: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, KS
TV: ESPN (English), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Online: WatchESPN (English), Univision Deportes app (Spanish)
Live outside the U.S.? Check out LiveSoccerTV.com for additional listings.
This is your USWNT gamethread. Watch and discuss the last friendly before Rio.