The USWNT will travel to the nation’s capital to compete in the final match of the SheBelieves Cup on Tuesday. The team has both won and lost so far this tournament, against Germany and England respectively, leaving the results of the tournament largely up to the result of the final match.
Head coach Jill Ellis has used these matches as a chance to experiment with her roster against much more difficult teams than those usually on the schedule. Using a three-back formation to support the team’s attacking minded roster, the team has matched up fairly evenly with their opponents thus far, but the final test from France may expose more holes in the formation than previous teams. The team notably gave up a goal to Romania when first testing the formation, but the SheBelieves teams haven’t done as well at catching the team too far forward.
Rose Lavelle making an impact in the midfield
Rose Lavelle, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin and a draftee of the Boston Breakers, made her first appearance for the senior national team in Saturday’s game against England. Named man of the match, she controlled the wing and created multiple opportunities for her teammates. Lavelle has been called into a few camps since last winter, but this was her first time seeing any playing time. In a formation that emphasizes the importance of the wing players getting both forward and back on defense, Lavelle proved that she has the ability to not only play with but excel against players of a very high caliber at a young age. Ellis may not yet have a go-to starting lineup, but it would not be surprising to see Lavelle make another game appearance on Tuesday.
Uncertainty for the goalkeepers
While Alyssa Naeher can be assumed to have claimed the number one spot for goalkeepers, there is still much debate about who will come next. Ashlyn Harris is aging closer to retirement, but Jane Campbell has not yet earned her first cap. Naeher will be 30 by the time the 2019 Women’s World Cup commences, so it may be wise to give Campbell as much experience as possible now. Ellis has rotated her keepers for each game this tournament, but the loss to England may lead her to name Naeher as the starting keeper for security. The goalkeeper is a position it will be wise to keep an eye on as the team progresses through camps.
France looking to build on earlier success
France is currently leading the standings in the tournament after a victory over England and a tie against Germany. They overcame an early deficit against England to win 2-1 which was a turning point for France, who have often been considered to be a team that can play well but not produce results.
Goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi has been an integral part of the French back line and will test the American forwards. Eugenie Le Sommer and Camille Abily, two teammates of Alex Morgan at Olympique Lyonnais, will be looking to exploit the three-back formation and convert against the world champions after they lost 1-0 at the two teams' last meeting during the 2016 Olympics.
France is a technical team that has challenged the US in the past and will put up a good fight in the match on Tuesday. In most scenarios, the winner of this match will determine the winner of the tournament, so the stakes are high. In addition, this is the last the U.S. will see of top five teams for the next few months, so the result of this match may help determine who will be called into future camps more so than upcoming friendlies.
The match will take place on March 7, 2017, at RFK Stadium in Washington DC. Kickoff is at 7 pm and the game can be watched on FS1.