As expected, Vlatko Andonovski rotated his U.S. women’s national team squad in their second Olympics match against New Zealand.
The U.S. boss made five changes from the team that was stunned 3-0 by Sweden in their opener, and the rotated squad responded with a much-needed 6-1 win against New Zealand to get their campaign in Japan back on track.
Despite the lopsided scoreline against New Zealand, the U.S. coach has not seen his team excel at the Olympics as of yet, giving him plenty to think about heading into the final group stage match against Australia.
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The USWNT only needs a draw against the Matildas to secure second place in their group and a guaranteed spot in the quarterfinals, but they will undoubtedly aim for all three points and a performance that will give them some momentum heading into the knockout stage.
So here’s how the USWNT could line up against Australia...
The tried and tested
Abby Dahlkemper has struggled in the first two games of the tournament, looking uncharacteristically shaky in the back line.
Tierna Davidson, meanwhile, started alongside Dahlkemper against New Zealand and looked more assured than her center-back partner.
Captain Becky Sauerbrunn was rested against New Zealand and will likely return against Australia, and so Andonovski could be tempted to entrust Davidson with the starting role at Dahlkemper’s expense, but it would be a major risk after Sauerbrunn and Dahlkemper established a hugely successful partnership over the past few years.
It is more likely that Andonovski will stay the course and hope Dahlkemper can quickly snap out of her funk.
In midfield, Rose Lavelle and Julie Ertz both showed their value against the Football Ferns, with Lavelle the standout performer for the USWNT before she was hauled off midway through the second half. Ertz played the full match and appears just about recovered from her knee injury.
After a rough display against Sweden, Lindsey Horan bounced back with an improved performance against New Zealand and could be in line to keep her place at the No.8 role ahead of Sam Mewis.
Up top, Alex Morgan and Christen Press both turned in strong displays off the bench against New Zealand and should return to the starting lineup against the Matildas.
The final forward spot is a toss-up between Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath, with both showing flashes in the first two games.
Benching Dahlkemper at this stage would easily be the biggest call of Andonovski’s USWNT tenure, but it would not be entirely unjustified.
The Manchster City center-back has looked completely out of sorts in the first two games, and Davidson is available as a ready-made replacement.
As a left-footed player, Davidson would slot into the left center back role, with Sauerbrunn sliding over to the right.
The duo is not nearly as familiar as Sauerbrunn and Dahlkemper, but they have started two games together at center-back in 2021.
At 22, Davidson is the second-youngest player on the U.S. roster, but is highly experienced for her age, with a World Cup title and more than two pro seasons in the NWSL already under her belt.
While Ertz appears set to continue at her No.6 role, Andonovski may want to rotate his midfield with an eye toward the knockout stage.
That could see Horan and Lavelle rested after the pair started both of the USWNT’s first two games at the tournament.
Andonovski has the Mewis sisters ready to take their place, with Kristie able to fill Lavelle’s advanced role and Sam more than capable at the No.8.
Catarina Macario, who came off the bench late on against New Zealand, could also be a surprise candidate to start in the attacking midfield role.
For more on the USWNT's chances at the Olympics and to hear from guests such as Hope Solo, subscribe to Goal's new podcast, 'All Of Us: The U.S. Women's Soccer Show', wherever you listen to your podcasts.