On Monday, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) will close out the group stages at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, against Puerto Rico. The Yanks cannot afford to take it easy in this game; failing to pick up points in this match can potentially set up a tough semifinal matchup for the USWNT.
These two nations enter the finale of group A on opposite sides of the table. The Yanks are currently in first place with six points out of two matches and they have a positive six goal differential. The defense for the United States has yet to surrender goal in the tournament. Plus, they have already secured their place into the semifinal round of the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualification Championship.
For the Caribbean nation, this tournament has been nothing but a nightmare. They began the championship with a humbling 6-0 defeat to Mexico on Wednesday at Toyota Stadium. Then on Saturday, Costa Rica pulverized the Puerto Ricans 9-0 at Toyota Stadium.
The Island nation has been eliminated from the tournament and the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in the process. The Puerto Ricans currently dwell in the cellar of the group with zero points and a negative 15 goal differential. So the Caribbean nation enters this match with nothing else on the table but pride.
USWNT Needs a Result Against Puerto Rico
The United States, on the other hand, will be attempting to win this match for a couple of reasons. The first is due to the bench player’s possible opportunity to start or log in more minutes on Monday.
USWNT manager Jill Ellis knows that there is still one more vital game left before they qualify for the Olympics. As a result, she will most likely want to rest a few of her starters for this match. Players like: 17-year-old striker Mallory Pugh, Christen Press, Sam Mewis, Stephanie McCaffrey, Jaelene Hinkle, Emily Sonnett or Kelley O’Hara might be inserted into the Starting XI for this match. This game will represent a golden opportunity to show Ellis that they can perform under the bright lights of a qualifier.
However, the more important reason to leave their final match with a positive result is to win the group. The Yanks have six points and are in first place, all they need is a draw to lock up the group. Not to mention the United States will want to do everything in their power to avoid Canada in the semis.
Avoiding the Dangerous Maple Leafs in the Semifinals
The Canadians are also in charge of their group with six points and a positive 11 goal differential after two games. They will close out the group stages on Wednesday against last place Guatemala at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas. Similar to the United States, all the Canadians need is a point to secure first place of group B. That being said there is a very high chance that they will beat the Chapines with ease.
However, if the USWNT manage to draw or beat Puerto Rico, then their chances of an upset decrease dramatically. Instead of facing Les Rouges on February 19th in Houston, they might be competing against Trinidad and Tobago or Guyana, which is more favorable for the Yanks. Failing to leave this game with at least a point might potentially set up an upset that could see the USWNT being eliminated from the Olympics.
Remember a nation does not qualify to Rio this August by just simply advancing to the next round. They have to win their semifinal match to secure their place in the Olympics.
With that being said, Ellis will be pushing her players to get a result against Puerto Rico’s shell shocked defense. With the United States having a task to complete in this game there is a good chance that this match will quickly become a blow out, regardless of who starts for the USWNT.
Prediction: USWNT 8, Puerto Rico 0