The U.S. women’s national team is back in action after winning the Tournament of Nations, this time to play Chile on Friday at the StubHub Center.
With this being the second to last match for the USWNT before the Concacaf Women’s Championship, Jill Ellis may take this opportunity to try out a first-choice team. However, with the team missing Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long through injury, the starters that face Chile may not be exactly the same in little more than a month’s time.
There is good news for Ellis and company, as Mallory Pugh and Kelley O’Hara have returned to fitness and will join the team in California for the pair of friendlies. Amy Rodriguez will also join the team as Rapinoe’s replacement on the roster.
The midfield is still the biggest uncertainty in the U.S. lineup, and Ellis may elect to start anybody in the squad, particularly in central midfield. With Long out, anyone of Lindsey Horan, Samantha Mewis, McCall Zerboni, or Morgan Brian could start as a central midfielder, though Ellis is not limited to those options.
Here’s a closer look at who could be in the starting lineup on Friday:
Alyssa Naeher will likely keep her spot in goal, having started all but two games in 2018, with Ellis usually only giving her breaks in the second match of an international break. Ashlyn Harris and Adrianna Franch will be available, but will probably get minutes on Tuesday.
With O’Hara back, she will likely take her regular place at left back, while team co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn and Tierna Davidson may once again pair at center back. The largest area of uncertainty comes at right back, where either Casey Short or Emily Sonnett will play. Sonnett may get the nod, as she has played a significant amount of minutes in Short’s injury absence and received praise from Ellis during the Tournament of Nations.
As for the midfield, Julie Ertz is the undisputed first choice in defensive midfield, and will likely be there again. Horan has been in a stellar run of form and should also make the lineup, but Ellis will be left with the choice of where to play Horan. She has recently preferred to play Horan deeper, giving Rose Lavelle space to enter the lineup.
For Ellis, the choices have frequently been easy for her forward line, starting Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Mallory Pugh when healthy. With Rapinoe’s absence, it is possible that Crystal Dunn finally gets a chance to play as a forward, a position she finds more comfortable. Tobin Heath and Christen Press are also realistic options, while Morgan could play on the left and someone else, like Press or Rodriguez, could play in the center.