USWNT vs Costa Rica: Who makes the cut?
Lindsey Horan in send-off match against South Africa / Photo Credit: Gary Duncan

The U.S. Women’s National Team plays against Costa Rica on Friday in their final send-off game before the Olympics. With the Olympic roster already out, Coach Jill Ellis is going to be looking for her starting XI for the tournament. Since this is the last game before the tournament begins, Ellis will be using players she thinks will be key during the tournament. With 18 to choose from, here’s this reporter’s prediction of who will start on Friday.

Goalkeeper

In the goalkeeping position, there is no doubt that Hope Solo will be the rock in goal. It is without a doubt that Solo is the number one keeper for the USWNT, so having her start is a no-brainer. Solo is likely going to be the starter during the Olympics so getting her that extra practice with the team she’ll be behind during the tournament is beneficial.

Defenders

Ellis seems to already have her backline set. The same four have basically been the starters for the last few matches. In the center will be captain Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston. That pair has not changed since before the World Cup last summer and it’s not likely going to change anytime soon.

On the left will be Meghan Klingenberg, but the right side is a little more difficult to decide. Ali Krieger and Kelley O’Hara have both been solid on the right and it’s hard to choose which would start. Krieger started the majority of the World Cup games last summer but over the last few years, they’ve been splitting the minutes fairly evenly.

It’s a tough decision, but this reporter believes that O’Hara will be taking the starting spot on Friday and likely during the tournament. She’s able to get up the flank well and create opportunities as well as stick with her mark and aid to the strong USWNT backline.

Midfielders

More recently Ellis has been using the 4-3-3 formation, which is tough for this reporter because there are so many good players to choose from! In this reporter’s opinion that is also a bad thing because the Olympic roster seems to be heavy on the central midfielders and lacks wingers. There’s really only Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe for the wings, but Rapinoe is not likely going to start or even play since she is still recovering from her ACL injury.

With the three midfielders, it’s going to be Heath, Lindsey Horan, and Allie Long. Those three are a strong combination and will be interesting to see how they do on the flanks.

Forwards

Mallory Pugh fights off defenders against South Africa / Photo Credit: Gary Duncan
Mallory Pugh fights off defenders against South Africa | Gary Duncan - VAVEL USA

With that 4-3-3, it’s likely that Alex Morgan will be put in the middle. She’s stepped up into more of a leadership role there and with her speed and skill on the ball, she’s the target this team needs up top. On her flanks will most likely be the youngster Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn. Those two have shown great ability to create opportunity, finish and read the oncoming plays. This team really has no bad combination in this area.

Ellis’ tough decision

Friday’s game will probably have a good handful of substitutes so Ellis can see how different combinations of players work together. Either way, it’s the last proving ground for these players to show that they are her starters for the Olympics.

The game is Friday, July 22 in Kansas City, MO at Children’s Mercy Park at 9 pm ET.

Izzy’s Line-up

Solo; Klingenberg, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, O’Hara; Heath, Horan, Long; Pugh, Morgan, Dunn

VAVEL Logo