The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) will kick off their CONCACAF Olympic Qualification campaign against Costa Rica on Wednesday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
USWNT missing big names
These two nations were drawn into Group A alongside Mexico and Puerto Rico. The United States will begin their qualification process without the likes of Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx, Lauren Holiday, Rachel Van Hollebeke and Lori Chalupny, who all retired from the national team in 2015.
Additionally, USWNT head coach Jill Ellis will be without strikers Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez who are both pregnant. Beyond that are the injuries to Christie Rampone and Megan Rapinoe, which have kept them out of the national team for a couple months now. All this added up officially ushers in a new era for the Yanks.
Costa Rica gets the ball rolling
Costa Rica is a young team; their oldest player is defender Carol Sanchez at 29-years-old, who is then followed by 28-year-old goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz. However, after the two of them the next oldest player is 26 and the youngest is 16-year-old midfielder Gloriana Villalobos. The player with the most caps is 26-year-old Cristin Granados with 64. Out of the 18 players on Costa Rica’s roster six of them have 10 caps or less.
Their inexperience will likely be exposed by the Americans. Yes, the USWNT will be without some of their cornerstone players for the first time in a qualification round, but there are still leaders in the 20 player roster. Nine of those players have 50 caps or more, and that list includes captain Carli Lloyd (212 caps), Hope Solo (186 caps), Tobin Heath (107 caps), Alex Morgan (100 caps) and Becky Sauerbrunn (96 caps).
The one thing going for Costa Rica is the current lawsuit that the U.S. Soccer Federation filed against the USWNT on January the third. The reason for this lawsuit is due to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) breach of contract.
"U.S. Soccer reluctantly filed a lawsuit in federal court in Chicago to confirm the existence of the current CBA that has been in place since 2013 and is set to expire on Dec. 31st, 2016," U.S. Soccer released in a statement on January third.
Since the United States is in the middle of this ugly process this might become a distraction for the national team. The Central Americans can expose that by attacking the USWNT quickly and potentially getting a goal. However, that is still a tall task for the Costa Rican team to accomplish.
The United States midfield with Lloyd, Heath and their new playmaker Lindsey Horan will overwhelm the Central American defense. Connecting passes to Morgan, Christen Press or Crystal Dunn on the attack will lead to the USWNT scoring multiple goals in the match.
If the Costa Ricans manage to recover possession in the game then midfielder Morgan Brian will be able to stop the attack. However, the last line of defense for the Americans is a solid one. Sauerbrunn, Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg and Kelly O’Hara have a combined 297 caps between them.
With all the forwards and midfielders of Costa Rica combined (10 players) they add up to 290, just seven short of the five USWNT defenders. The Central Americans only realistic shot to achieving the upset victory against the World Cup Champions is hoping that Yanks focus is clouded by the lawsuit.