Monday’s match against Australia will be the first step on the United States’ journey to reclaim their place as the best women’s team in the world. After winning the 2012 London Olympics, it seems as if now is the perfect time for a talented American squad to run the gauntlet and make fans forget about the disappointing 2011 finals loss to Japan. Not since Brandi Chastain’s iconic celebration in 1999 has the American team won the World Cup, but could this be the year that they claim their third title? Against the Australians, the US hold a dominant 22-0-2 record, but they cannot go into this matchup without respect for their opponents from down under.
The biggest question mark going into the match for the US has to be the health of star forward Alex Morgan. The 25-year-old striker has been recovering from an injury for most of the team’s month long training camp, but according to the coach, she’s healthy and ready for selection. Morgan provides the US with a dynamic goal scorer up front. She can be lethal with her feet, but can just as easily win a ball in the air. Through her first 84 national team appearances, Morgan has scored 51 goals (0.6 goals a game). Having such an impressive scoring record is never a bad thing, and adding to that goal total early on in the tournament will just give more confidence to the already talented striker.
In net for the Americans stands arguably one of the most recognizable people in the sport, Hope Solo. Over the weekend, ESPN’s Outside the Lines obtained court documents from Solo’s arrest last year. The reports appeared to show that despite Solo adamantly denying any wrongdoing in the domestic assault incident, she had repeatedly struck her nephew and half sister during a heated altercation. Solo had already been cleared of these charges earlier in the year, but these documents raise more questions about what happened that night, and cause even more unnecessary distractions for the US keeper. The team has downplayed the effects of the recent events, but it will be interesting to see whether or not all of this media coverage has any affect on Solo during the tournament.
The Australian Women currently sit 10th in the FIFA rankings, but a great run of form in recent fixtures could help to push the team to a historic upset of their American counterparts. In the month of March, the Australians played six matches and won five, but as I stated earlier, they have never beaten the US in 24 attempts. It will take a magical effort from this team if they hope to register even a point in this opening match. Expect them to lineup in a defensive formation, and for most of their attacks to come on the counter.
One player to keep an eye on for the Aussies is their captain, Lisa De Vanna. De Vanna leads the team not only in international appearances (99), but also goals with 35. The experienced striker is the only member of the squad with over 20 international goals and she will be counted on for the Australians to have any chance of threatening this American team. The 30-year-old is capable of incredible goals as showcased by her Puskas-nominated bicycle kick in 2013. De Vanna will be the main focus for the US backline but if they can shut her down it should be a pretty straightforward match.
The only way that I can see the US losing this match is if they go into it already expecting a win. Talent wise, the Americans have just too much depth for the Australians to handle, and I don’t think an upset is in the cards for Monday’s match. The Americans will cruise to a 4-0 victory.