It’s another international break and the marquee matchup is the USWNT going on the road to play EUROS winners England at Wembley Stadium. Tickets for the match sold out the same day they went on sale, a sign of both the popularity of the USWNT and the power of winning a major European tournament.
It’s also a fascinating matchup because both teams will be looking to measure themselves against the other, for various reasons.
It’s no secret that the USWNT is the most decorated, and widely regarded as the best, women’s national team in the world. They’ve won the last two World Cups, and in fact the last one, in 2019, was won after the USWNT tore through Europe’s historical greats (Spain, France, England then Netherlands) to claim the trophy.
England won the EUROS in impressive fashion and lifted the trophy as the new best team in Europe, and they’ll be eager to show that European success can extend beyond the continent as well.
The USWNT have had a mixed bag of results since Vlatko Andonovski took over. His first major tournament was the 2020 Olympics in which the U.S. were embarrassed by Sweden 3-0 and ended with a 4-3 win over Australia to win the bronze medal (Canada won gold). A year later the USWNT comfortably ran through the CONCACAF W Championship, meeting Canada in the final and earning the win.
It may be classified as a friendly, but if the USWNT want to make the statement that they’re still the premier dominant force in women’s soccer, beating England would help underscore that claim.
Unfortunately it was reported that England striker Alessia Russo, scorer of some of the EUROS most ridiculous goals, picked up a small injury and will not face the USWNT. Likewise, the U.S. will be without their preferred strikers as Catarina Macario is still rehabbing from a torn ACL and Alex Morgan picked up a knee injury last in the NWSL regular season.
Still, both teams remain loaded. England’s defense will likely have to cope with a combination of Sophia Smith and Megan Rapinoe. Over the past year Smith has turned into one of the brightest young stars in the world by displaying a mastery of tools to give any defender fits.
For the U.S., the toughest battle to win will be in midfield. England manager Sarina Wiegman typically uses a strong and versatile midfield of Georgia Stanway, Keira Walsh and Fran Kirby to turnover, possess and create for dangerous wingers, Beth Mead and Lauren Hemp. Due to injuries, the U.S. is a bit light in midfielders. It’s likely that Andi Sullivan and Lindsey Horan will start with NWSL rookie Sam Coffey, who earned her first senior national team start a month ago versus Nigeria.
The obvious place to look is the potential goalscorers, however it’s likely that the match will be won or lost elsewhere on the pitch. In wide areas, fullbacks Emily Fox and Sofia Huerta will need to keep sharp tabs on Mead and Hemp. They’re both energetic wingers who can be impossible to stop once they have a step. If Fox and Huerta can remain in front of them while choosing the right times to get forward, they could negate England’s biggest threat and help their team find the winning goal.
For England it’s much the same, as fullbacks Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly will have to contend with the USWNT’s wide players. Daly spent her time in Houston, and now at Aston Villa, as a forward, but is moved to left back when she joins England. On her best day, Bronze is capable of contributing at both ends of the pitch, leaning on her fitness and athleticism to track back and get in good defensive positions before danger can come. Mallory Pugh being ruled out due to a family commitment is a boost for England and Bronze’s approach, but Sophia Smith (and potentially Trinity Rodman) are similarly equipped to take advantage of that space.
Though the match is technically listed as a friendly, there’s no such thing when England and the U.S. clash, in history books but also the pitch. Both teams have something to prove, and both have enough players missing to offer deflections in the face of a loss. However, no one really wants to wait until the 2023 World Cup for the possibility of revenge. Game on.