Portuga vs USA: Gearing up for 2019 with a European friendly
Alex Morgan celebrates after scoring against Jamaica in the semifinals of the 2018 CONCACAF Women's Tournament. | Photo: Cooper Neill - Getty Images

The top-ranked United States Women's National Team is traveling to Europe for a pair of friendlies to prepare for the upcoming 2019 Women's World Cup. The prestigious tournament will be held in France next summer.

The roster for the tournament is a bit different than the one that cruised to victory in the 2018 CONCACAF Women's Tournament in October. Tobin Heath, Christen Press, and Kelley O'Hara will all miss the trip, but that has allowed a few fringe players an opportunity to show their stuff before the final World Cup roster is announced. 

Returning to a familiar country

Portugal used to be a very common destination for the USWNT. Portugal hosts the yearly Algarve Cup, an invitational tournament held every March between many of the top countries in the world. The United States participated in that tournament every year from 1998 to 2015 until the SheBelieves Cup was created and booked during the same FIFA window. This will be the first trip to Portugal for the USWNT since 2015, but it is no wonder that US Soccer felt comfortable booking a game there after such a long relationship with the country.

The Portuguese side they will be facing, after just barely qualifying for the 2017 UEFA Women's Euro, failed to qualify for the upcoming World Cup. Drawn into a manageable qualifying group, Portugal finished third behind Italy and Belgium. The result was extremely disappointing for the team after they beat China, Australia, and Norway at the 2018 Algarve Cup. Six different players scored for Portugal in the four-game tournament, including Nadia Gomez, who was drafted by the Orlando Pride of the National Women's Soccer League

USWNT riding high

Crystal Dunn has found a home on defense for the USWNT despite playing more offensive roles for her club teams. | Photo: Omar Vega - Getty Images
Crystal Dunn has found a home on defense for the USWNT despite playing more offensive roles for her club teams. | Photo: Omar Vega - Getty Images

The United States hopes to continue their impressive undefeated streak as they close down the 2018 campaign in Europe. It has been more than 15 months since the USWNT lost to Australia at the 2017 Tournament of Nations. 2018 has been an especially good year for the ladies in red, white, and blue. They have secured 16 wins and two draws in their 18 games this year. 

The USA has been riding a strong scoring performance from Alex Morgan who has scored 17 goals this year. While the offense has been humming along nicely, the defense has been less impressive. Head coach Jill Ellis continues to fiddle with the lineup, but it seems like her preferred lineup has been with Becky Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper playing in the center and with Crystal Dunn and Kelley O'Hara on the wings. With O'Hara injured, Ellis will try out Casey Short, Merritt Mathias, and Emily Fox in that spot. The United States has been looking for a good reserve outside back for more than two years, but nobody has really stepped up in that role, and any of the aforementioned players have a chance of making the World Cup roster if they impress in the closing matches of 2018.

How to watch

The first thing you're going to need is a long break from work. With this game being played in Estoril, Portugal, kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 pm ET. Assuming you can overcome that hurdle, the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.