The U.S. women’s national team was likely to rotate their squad for Saturday’s game with New Zealand regardless of how the opener against Sweden turned out. But after they were stunned 3-0 by the Swedes, all bets are off for the USWNT as they stare down a match that has taken on a new and unexpected level of importance.
There will still be some rotation but head coach Vlatko Andonovski will have to weigh how many of his top players he can afford to rest. On the other hand, after a dismal display against the Swedes, some members of the USWNT’s previous top-choice lineup could be in danger of losing their spots.
With plenty at stake and a number of options at his disposal, here are a few ways Andonovski could set up his squad against New Zealand.
With the U.S. badly needing a result against what appears to be the group’s weakest team, Andonovski could opt to cut down on his changes and instead use a lineup he trusts to get the job done.
That means minimal rotation from the Sweden match, with Julie Ertz taking her spot at defensive midfield in place of Lindsey Horan, who didn’t have her best game on Wednesday.
Megan Rapinoe, who made an impact off the bench against Sweden, could be drafted in to start in place of Tobin Heath. Otherwise, nine of the 11 starters from the first game would be back.
Andonovski couldn’t totally be blamed if he were to make major changes, necessitated by the compressed schedule of the Olympics combined with the USWNT’s poor performance against the Swedes.
Crystal Dunn was often targeted at left back against Sweden, and Andonovski could opt to use Tierna Davidson in her place. Dunn is too valuable as an attacker to leave off the pitch though, so the Portland Thorns star could be drafted into the forward line to play her more natural position.
Kristie Mewis, who like Davidson entered as a sub against Sweden, could be given a full run-out in midfield to utilize her eye for goal and the final pass. Mewis has oftentimes been utilized alongside her younger sister Sam, giving the USWNT a midfield duo with plenty of chemistry.
Carli Lloyd, who leads the U.S. in assists in 2021, could get a start at forward with Christen Press, another of the team’s best attackers this year, maintaining her place.
Keep Ertz sidelined
The need for Ertz against Sweden was apparent after the U.S. midfield was cut apart time and time again. But starting Ertz against New Zealand may not be as obvious of a move as it seems.
New Zealand won’t press the USWNT like Sweden did and the U.S. should expect to see most of the ball. With that in mind, Ertz could start on the bench again as she works her way back to fitness.
Horan didn’t shine against Sweden but drafting her back in against New Zealand could make sense after she performed well in the No.6 role against weaker teams in friendlies before the Olympics.