Heavy rotation or a swansong for the old guard: How will the USWNT line up against Australia?

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There will be plenty of time after the Olympics for an in-depth dissection of why the U.S. women’s national team fell flat in their pursuit of gold.

But, for now, there is still a medal on the line. 

It’s not the color the USWNT would have wanted, but they’ll go for a bronze when they face Australia on Thursday in a game that still has plenty of importance. 

“We had the goal of winning the goal medal, but any medal is really special,” Megan Rapinoe said after her side fell to Canada in the semi-final, “We can’t lose sight of that.”

“We still have a ton to play for,” she added. “I think taking home a bronze medal would be a great accomplishment for this team.”

Losing two straight games to close out a medal-less tournament would be a very different closing note than a win against the Matildas and a spot on the podium.

With that in mind, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski has several options for how he’ll approach the bronze medal game.

Here are a few ways the USWNT could line up against Australia...

Heavy rotation

AD Franch is set to start in goal after Alyssa Naeher’s injury against Canada, but there could be plenty of rotation ahead of Franch as well.

Tierna Davidson, who has performed admirably at center back this tournament, could be shifted wide left, with Emily Sonnett getting the nod at right back to give Crystal Dunn and Kelley O'Hara a rest.

Abby Dahlkemper, who has had a difficult tournament, could return to the lineup for one final chance to impress at center back alongside captain Becky Sauerbrunn.

USWNT lineup vs Australia 1

In midfield, Julie Ertz may keep her place due to a lack of defensive midfield alternatives but Catarina Macario and Kristie Mewis could get their first Olympic starts.

The USWNT have fewer fresh options up top thanks to Andonovski’s heavy rotations thus far, but Christen Press and Carli Lloyd may be drafted back into the team, with Lynn Williams keeping her place for a third straight game. 

Maintain continuity

Though it’s not a gold medal game, the match against the Matildas is still huge for Andonovski, who may see calls for his job increase if the USWNT falls short in their pursuit of the bronze.

With that in mind, he could opt to send out a team similar to the one he’d have used in the gold medal game.

USWNT lineup vs Australia 2

That would mean the return of his first-choice back line with Dunn, Davidson, Sauerbrunn and O’Hara, with Dahlkemper remaining on the bench.

Sam Mewis, who came on as a substitute against Canada, could be drafted into the midfield alongside regular starters Rose Lavelle and Ertz.

Press and Williams, two of the team's best pressing options, could both start, with Alex Morgan returning as a forward as she looks to add to her tally of one goal at the Olympics thus far.

The swansong

There are several USWNT players who could be participating in their final major tournament match on Thursday, and Andonovski could be tempted to give them all one last run-out.

Casey Krueger has played just seven minutes in Japan thus far and could be given a shot at right back. At 30, and having been named to this squad originally as an alternate, Krueger may not make another major tournament roster.

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USWNT lineup vs Australia 3

Sauerbrunn and Rapinoe are both 36, while Lloyd is 39, meaning the highly decorated trio may not play at another major tournament either. Tobin Heath, 33, is another player whose international future is uncertain.

The same goes for Kristie Mewis, who was one of the last players to make the current squad and, at 30, may not be in contention for another major tournament.