The USWNT enters a new year after finishing 2017 with a 12-3-1 record. The year was full of experimentation with the formation, lineup, players' positions, and bringing in numerous players.
Head coach Jill Ellis has now moved past the experimentation process and now sets her sights on 2018, a year where qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup begins in the fall. With the SheBelieves Cup in March and the Tournament of Nations this summer, 2018 is set to be a another highly competitive year for the U.S.
Up first, the USWNT kicks off its 34th year of international competition against 12th-ranked Denmark in San Diego, California at the San Diego County Credit Union Stadium. Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. PT on ESPN.
USWNT: Ready to Erase 2017 Disappointments
If one followed the USWNT in 2017, one remembers the disappointments. The SheBelieves Cup in March was not kind to the USWNT where the U.S. finished last, and they picked up another loss at the Tournament of Nations where Australia beat the U.S. for the first time ever.
A shift in formation against Brazil, including playing Julie Ertz in the #6 position changed the narrative. From that moment forth, Ertz was the new defensive midfielder for the USWNT. The USWNT went 7-0-1 with Ertz in her new position. She dominated the midfield, scoring five more goals, including a brace against New Zealand. The 2017 campaign saw Ertz finish second on the team in scoring with six goals, and she was voted the 2017 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year.
Finishing 2017 strong gave the USWNT a boost of confidence, and they came to January training camp set on focusing solely on the new year ahead. Jill Ellis originally invited 26 players to January Camp, including top collegiate players such as Tierna Davidson (Stanford) and Savannah McCaskill (South Carolina). However, midfielder Morgan Brian stayed in France to regain her fitness, and Becky Sauerbrunn left camp with a stress reaction in her left foot. The U.S was left with 24 players at training camp; Ellis will choose 18 to suit up for the match against Denmark.
Denmark: Up to the Challenge
The Danish Women's National Team has risen to become one of the top teams in Europe. Along with their #12 FIFA ranking, they are ranked 6th in UEFA. The Danes are coming off a runner-up performance at the 2017 UEFA Women's Euro where they fell to the Netherlands. 18 out of 20 players from that EURO roster are ready to take on the USWNT in San Diego.
Head coach Lars Søndergaard brings an experienced team to the USA. Seven players have earned 75 or more caps; Sanne Troelsgaard has 119 caps with 41 goals, and Theresa Nielsen comes in with117 caps and 4 goals. Nadia Nadim is also part of the squad. Nadim spent the past two seasons in the NWSL, helping the Portland Thorns FC win the 2017 NWSL Championship.
Though Denmark is 5-16-3 all-time against the U.S., this experienced team will surely give the USWNT a challenge.