The United States Women’s National team will face Romania on Thursday in California. The 24-player roster hosts some familiar faces that were absent from the October friendlies, in addition to some new faces who made an impact in those games. Switzerland did not pose much of a problem for the October squad, who won both matches by four-goal margins. Head coach Jill Ellis notably experimented with a three-person back line, which complimented her emphasis on offense throughout the Olympic tournament.
New faces meet old
Veterans like Ali Krieger and Alex Morgan will play on the same field as newcomers Casey Short, Andi Sullivan, and Lynn Williams for the first time, and Ellis will be tasked with finding a formation that allows them to play cohesively. Sullivan impressed during her tenure at Stanford, and Short and Williams both impressed during the NWSL Season. Williams, who helped the Western New York Flash to an NWSL Championship this year, opened scoring against Switzerland in Utah, and despite the fact that it was her first cap, her ability to play with the team as if she’d done this time and time before was more than enough to earn her a second look. Co-Captain Carli Lloyd will noticeably be absent from this camp due to her wedding, so leadership will fall on Becky Sauerbrunn and the other veterans to bring together a group with increasingly diverse levels of experience.
New faces on the other side of the pitch
Romania, who is currently 36th in FIFA world rankings, had an impressive showing at the Euro tournament, finishing behind France in their group. This will be the first meeting between the two teams. The team boasts impressive forwards that will likely test goalkeepers Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris. It is possible that the third keeper in camp, Adrianna Franch, will dress for the game, but both Naeher and Harris have been effective thus far, and it is unlikely that Ellis will make too many changes.
A looming question that has persisted since the early exit at the Olympics is whether Ellis’s emphasis on attacking will continue to work when the USWNT plays more challenging teams. Many will be looking to see if she will modify the team’s formation, or if a three person back line is something that she wants the team to adapt to and use as the 2019 and 2020 tournaments approach. In addition to the lineup, in the assumed to be permanent absence of Hope Solo, there is some debate regarding who should and will be the number one keeper going forward, and if a younger keeper like Jane Campbell, who was at camp in October but is absent for this round, should be thrown into the rotation while it is still early enough for her to get experience.
The match will take place at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California, and will be aired on ESPN 2 at 10:00 pm ET.