2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup: USWNT Preview

image.pngUSA Today Sports

The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off this weekend in France. Unlike the men’s national team as of late, the US Women’s National Has given soccer fans in the nation something to cheer about. The United States enter as the defending champions after defeating Japan to win the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

The US gets a later start as their first game will not be played until Tuesday afternoon. Group Stage Schedule: USA vs. Thailand – Tuesday, June 11, 3:00 pm ET USA vs. Chile – Sunday, June 16, Noon ET Sweden vs. USA – Saturday, June 22, 3:00 pm ET

On paper, Sweden will be the most difficult test for the United States. CBS Sports ranks the US first, Sweden 10th, Chile 19th, and Thailand dead last of the 24 teams competing in the World Cup. The last time the two sides met on an international stage, Sweden stunningly knocked out the US in the 2016 Rio Olympics quarterfinals.

The roster has several new faces but retains several stars from previous World Cup teams. Here is a look at the starters:

Forwards

Tobin Heath

Image result for tobin heathPhiladelphia Enquirer/AP

Heath is best known for her dribbling ability in the attack, ranking sixth in dribbles per 90 minutes in international play. In 3 international matches in 2019, Heath has tallied two goals and an assist. She also had eight goals and seven assists in 19 matches for Portland Thorns FC (NWSL) in 2018.

Alex Morgan

Image result for alex morganOrlando City SC

Morgan is arguably the most well-known of the USWNT roster, and this will be her third World Cup. Morgan has 28 goals in her last 36 games in international play. In her first World Cup appearance in 2011, Morgan scored both in the semifinal against France and in the final against Japan. Morgan has the speed, strength, and skill to be an elite player in this World Cup and this could be her most impressive showcase in World Cup play.

Megan Rapinoe

Image result for megan rapinoeYahoo! Sports

Rapinoe has led the US as the part-time captain and will continue to show her leadership in the World Cup. Rapinoe’s most famous moment was the desperation cross to Abby Wambach against Brazil in 2011 for a last-minute equalizer. In 2015, Rapinoe had two goals, two assists, and two yellow cards in the World Cup.

Midfielders

Julie Ertz

Image result for julie ertzUS Soccer

Formerly, Julie Johnson, Ertz is now the wife of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. Ertz is not known to light up the stat sheet, but is rather known for her physicality during games. Ironically enough, she has not picked up a card in international play since the 2015 World Cup.

Lindsey Horan

Image result for lindsey horanNew York Times/AP

Like Ertz, Horan is not known to light up the stat sheet, but rather for her toughness and consistently winning 50-50 balls in the midfield. She first appeared for the USWNT in the 2016 Olympics, playing in four games. Horan’s professional story is a unique one, having skipped college to play for Paris-Saint German before returning to the US to play for Portland Thorns FC. This is her first World Cup.

Rose Lavelle

Image result for rose lavelleWXVU (Cincinnati)

If you like bulldog pics and videos, you will love Rose Lavelle’s Twitter (@roselavelle). Anyhow, this World Cup newcomer is only 24 and is known for her creativity in the midfield. Lavelle passes less often than all of her teammates so look for her to create space before giving the ball to one of her teammates, and pass much more on attack. She is also a native of Cincinnati and has gotten support from clubs such as FC Cincinnati on social media.

Defenders

Abbey Dahlkemper

Image result for abby dahlkemperESPN/AP

Shortly after being called up to the USWNT in 2016, Dahlkemper contracted sepsis which nearly saw her lose her leg. Now she will be starting in her first World Cup. Dahlkemper’s best known for her distribution, especially playing long balls out of the back. Previously, she was a captain for the U-17 national team in 2010 and played for the U-23 team from 2013-16.

Crystal Dunn

Image result for crystal dunnUSA Today Sports

Dunn has versatility in which position she will play throughout a game, and she may not be a defender from start to finish in a game. Expect her to start as a wing-back during the World Cup. Dunn scored a goal in her first Olympics in 2016 and also scored in the SheBelieves Cup that year. Dunn has won seemingly every possible award since high school, but she became the youngest player to win NWSL MVP, winning the award at age 23 in 2015. She scored 15 goals that season for the Washington Spirit. This year will be her first World Cup.

Kelley O’Hara

Image result for kelley o'haraESPN

O’Hara is the stereotypical defender; nothing is flashy about her game but she helps keep possession better than nearly every defender in this tournament. She has an attacking mindset nearly every time she gets the ball. O’Hara had a goal in the 2015 World Cup and also appeared in all four games in the 2016 Olympics.

Becky Sauerbrunn

Image result for becky sauerbrunnUSA Today Sports

Sauerbrunn is the oldest starter on the roster at 34, and this will all but certainly be her last World Cup. This year is Sauerbrunn’s third appearance in World Cup play. Becky loves to be known as a team player, check out her flute story on the USWNT website.

Goalkeeper

Alyssa Naeher

Image result for alyssa naeherSports Illustrated

No more Hope Solo for the US. Rather, this year’s starter will be Alyssa Naeher, who plays with a much different style than Solo. Naeher is more offensively-minded than Solo, completing over 14 passes per game while Solo completed fewer than nine. Naeher’s save percentage in international play has been 71 percent since 2015, compared to Solo’s 79. She was a part of the 2015 World Cup championship team and was the 2014 NWSL goalkeeper of the year, making a record 106 saves in 24 games that year.

Bench

The US will carry 23 players on their roster, with 12 substitutions available off the bench.

F Carli Lloyd F Jessica McDonald F Christen Press F Mallory Pugh M Morgan Brian M Allie Long M Samantha Mewis D Tierna Davidson D Ali Krieger D Emily Sonnett GK Adrianna French GK Ashlyn Harris

My Group Stage Predictions

W, 7-0 over Thailand W, 3-0 over Chile W, 3-2 over Sweden Leading scorer – Alex Morgan

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