With World Cup qualifying for the women months away and the men's World Cup this summer, you probably have a bit of a craving for some international soccer. Luckily for you, the United States women take on Canada this Thursday evening.
Though it will be just a friendly, it's never quite "just a friendly" when these two border rivals meet. In other words, this is a matchup you won't want to miss.
Let's break it down.
When: Thursday, May 8 at 7:50 p.m. ET
Where: Investors Group Field, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
While the United States will mostly feature recognizable faces, a few new ones will make an appearance against Canada.
One of them, of course, will be interim manager Jill Ellis, who talked about her squad selections to USSoccer.com:
With World Cup qualifying in less than six months, each game against a quality opponent is significant for this group, but no question playing Canada in Canada stirs the emotions and gives it greater meaning. We have been scouting the NWSL games, and we have some injuries, so I think the roster is indicative of some of the top performers playing in the league at the moment. I am looking forward to getting the group to Winnipeg and having a few days of prep before the match.
Alex Morgan, midfielder Kristie Mewis, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and defender Rachel Van Hollebeke all unavailable due to injury, and the losses of Rapinoe and Morgan in particular could be felt. Still, the United States is one of the strongest sides in the world, and their depth is an aspect of their success.
And at least Ellis has been the interim manager once before, earning a 5-0-2 record after stepping in for Pia Sundhage in 2012. It remains to be seen if she'll stick around a bit longer this time, but her job for now is to start molding this team and giving players a look to see how the team might round into shape come World Cup qualifying.
As for Canada, this game will be another chance to continue to develop under manager John Herdman, per the Canadian Press, via TSN:
This is a good chance to see how much development has taken place since Herdman started to refocus the team on the kind of game he says they need to play to be competitive at the 2015 World Cup, being held in cities across Canada, including Winnipeg.
'This is where your true gap analysis comes in and you get a great sense of how far you've come along the line towards success at the World Cup,' he said.
'There's a certain style and approach we want to go with. . . It's more about in this game the attacking processes of managing the ball better under the sort of pressure the U.S. put you under, as well as being a lot more clinical in those key moments, that transitional moment where we are getting chances but not converting.'
There aren't many measuring sticks better than the United States. Even in front of their home fans, the Canadian side will really be tested in this one. Remember, the United States beat Canada 1-0 in January.
As always, the United States women will need to keep a close eye on Christine Sinclair, Canada's all-time leading scorer. Perhaps you recall her scoring a hat trick against the United States in the 2012 Olympics in a semifinal match that the Americans won, 4-3. She is as dangerous as any forward in the world when she's in form.
Of course, the United States has a pretty good forward of their own in Abby Wambach, along with a slew of other options in the attack. Don't be shocked if this game has plenty of goals in it.
In Winnipeg, the Canadian team will be dangerous. This is an intense if a bit one-sided rivalry, and the Canadians would like nothing more than to humble the United States before World Cup qualifying commences.
Plus, without Morgan or Rapinoe, the United States won't be at full strength.
Still, the United States is the stronger side, and they responded to Ellis in March by beating a tough China side, 3-0. Even without a few key players, they are absolutely loaded, and this isn't the type of team that will be intimidated by an opposing fanbase.
Expect goals in this one, but expect the U.S. to sneak out with a win. This one goes to the Americans, 3-2.
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