On July 1 and July 5, the USWNT played its final two matches as part of the Send Off Series before heading to Tokyo. The team faced Mexico in both matches, winning by a 4-0 margin in each, and featuring record-breaking crowds in Connecticut. In case it wasn’t clear before, the gold is theirs to lose.
The reigning world champions have now gone 44 games unbeaten, 40 of which were wins, with the most recent tie being against Sweden. They are coming off the back of a World Cup championship and a year of needed rest. To put it simply, the USWNT is on fire.
Christen Press is in the best form of her life
It is not a stretch to say this is the best soccer Christen Press ’11 has ever played. Press’ stats from the weekend speak for themselves, scoring a brace Thursday, forcing an own goal Monday and having a goal called offside on Monday as well. The referee later told head coach Vlatko Andonovski that the goal was indeed onside and was a mistaken whistle.
Regardless, this is not a new trend for the star. Press has been directly involved in 36 goals in her last 37 games for the national team, providing the squad with almost a goal or assist each game. Since returning from Manchester United, she has refrained from reporting to the NWSL team, Racing Louisville, who currently own her rights. Instead, Press has been training with teammate Tobin Heath, who is coming back into form after an ankle and knee injury.
Despite not currently playing for a league team, Press is arguably the only 90-minute fit forward on the squad and proved this past week she can do it in back-to-back matches. Heading to the Olympics, her creativity on the ball and physical fitness could make her the star of the tournament.
Not only is Press individually great on the ball, but her chemistry with teammates such as Heath, Carli Lloyd and Sam Mewis is undeniable. Up top, Press, Heath and Lloyd were the most successful trio, helping with the creation of four goals in the first half of Monday’s game. During Thursday’s action, Press had two goals of her own while playing with Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.
S. Mewis and Lindsay Horan are both nearly guaranteed in the midfield, but Vlatko will likely switch out Kristie Mewis and Rose Lavelle to manage minutes. The big question will be who starts with Press up top? With a player in such good form, the starting 11 should be formed around who is most productive together. Comparing the two most recent games, Thursday’s starting lineup of Press, Lloyd and Heath could be the go-to for the harder games in the Olympic Tournament.
Tierna Davidson can play both center back and on the wing
A staple center back, and likely the heir to Becky Sauerbrunn, Tierna Davidson ’19 was subbed on for Crystal Dunn at left back on Thursday. Despite the change in position, Davidson proved she can easily play both, assisting Press on her second goal of the night.
Davidson, known partially for her beautiful chips over the top, is often written off as the third center back of the bunch. However, Thursday proved she is being considered on the outside too. With Julie Ertz not yet at full strength after her knee injury, Andonovski could use Davidson for some interesting lineup switches.
With Davidson on the outside, players like Dunn or Emily Sonnet could push farther up the field. Dunn, who plays in the midfield for the Portland Thorns, is a world-class forward as well. When it comes to managing minutes up top, especially against teams like Australia and New Zealand in the group stage, or England and Canada down the road, Andonovski could shift Dunn forward, replacing her with Davidson.
On the other hand, Davidson could play the wing while Sonnett plays the role of the six, where Ertz will be absent. While Horan has been playing the six in the last few games, Andonovski also experimented with Sonnet in that position. By putting Sonnett at the six, Horan is able to shift forward, helping to limit minutes for players like S. Mewis.
And even further so, Davidson can resume her anticipated position, helping to manage minutes for the two center backs, Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper. Altogether Davidson may not start most games, but she will certainly be the key to helping keep the starters fresh and finishing off the last 30 minutes.
Catarina Macario and Jane Campbell bumped up to the full roster, but are they Olympians?
After a sudden announcement from the IOC, it was said that the Olympic soccer teams would be expanding from 18 player rosters to the full 22 players, where 18 players will be selected for each game day, with no restrictions on who out of the 22 can be selected on a game-by-game basis. The question everyone is now asking is whether that makes them Olympians.
In typical years, the Olympic rosters would feature 18 players with four alternates. The alternates would only see roster time if one of the 18 were injured. Additionally, if one of the original 18 gave up their spot to an alternate due to injury, they were not allowed to be within the 18 in later games. In the end, the four alternates, if not pulled into the main 18, would not receive an Olympic medal and would not be considered Olympians. With this new rule change, all players have the potential to be switched in and out of the main 18 at any point, so does this make them all Olympians? The answers are still unclear.
With Ertz still recovering from injury, many expect Macario to be called into the 18 for at least some of the group stage matches. Jane Campbell ’17, on the other hand, may not be needed. It is typically unlikely that teams ever need more than their starting keeper, let alone their third string. However, it is still possible we could see both former Cardinal be called in.
Kelley O’Hara is healthy and ready to go
Typically prone to unfortunate injuries before big tournaments, Kelley O’Hara ’10 is another former Cardinal arguably in the best form of her career. The starting right back is a USWNT staple and defensive machine that appears as healthy as ever.
Despite being in her best form, O’Hara will still be a player to watch when it comes to managing her minutes. The right back is known for covering a lot of ground in big tournaments, and with games being consistently only days apart, Andonovski will be working with players to provide O’Hara with sufficient rest. Even so, the backline combination of O’Hara, Dunn, Dahlkemper and Sauerbrunn is almost unstoppable.