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USWNT vs. New Zealand: Top Storylines and Predictions for 2023 Friendly

Joe TanseyJanuary 17, 2023

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL - NOVEMBER 10: Lindsey Horan #10 of the United States dribbles at Alexandra Popp #11 of Germany during a game between Germany and USWNT at DRV PNK Stadium on November 10, 2022 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Erin Chang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Erin Chang/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The United States women's national team begins its 2023 slate of games on Tuesday in a city it will become familiar with this summer.

The Americans are in New Zealand for a pair of games against the Football Ferns in preparation for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Tuesday's match at Sky Stadium in Wellington serves as a chance for the USWNT to get back on track after a tough end to 2022 when it lost three of its last four games to European opposition.

The contest also allows some fringe players to impress manager Vlatko Andonovski.

The USWNT has five games over the next two months that will help Andonovski figure out the back end of his World Cup roster.

New Zealand should use the match as a measuring stick for where it stands ahead of its home World Cup. The Football Ferns lost 5-0 in their last meeting with the Americans at the SheBelieves Cup in February.


USWNT vs. New Zealand Info

Date: Tuesday, January 17

Start Time: 10:05 p.m. ET

Live Stream: HBO Max


Top Storylines

Competition for USWNT Roster Spots

The chase for World Cup roster spots will increase in intensity now that it is a World Cup year.

Andonovski has a few things to sort out with his squad before naming his group for the World Cup this summer.

The biggest question in defense comes at left back, where Crystal Dunn, Emily Fox and Hailie Mace are all in competition for the starting role.

Fox earned starts at left back in the final two games of 2022 against Germany.

However, Dunn is the most experienced member of the trio and could win out eventually because of her quality moving forward. The 30-year-old has 24 goals in 126 international appearances. She has played in a more forward role in previous years.

The midfield has yet to find a clear-cut replacement for Julie Ertz, who gave birth to her first child last year. She is a vital piece of the team's spine, whether she plays at center back or in the defensive midfield.

Lindsey Horan will be one of the first names on the USWNT roster, but what role she plays in midfield could still be up for question. She could be further forward than the defensive-minded Ertz position, but Andonovski also needs to get his best players on the field for the World Cup.

The trip to New Zealand could also serve as a chance for the forwards to step up, with Megan Rapinoe and Sophia Smith out of the squad due to injuries.

Alex Morgan could score a bulk of the goals, as she has many times before, but keep an eye on Lynn Williams and Ashley Hatch as both try to move up the depth chart with the World Cup on the horizon.


New Zealand Using Match As World Cup Test

New Zealand must perform better than it did in its 5-0 loss to the USWNT last February in Carson, California.

The Football Ferns have never gotten out of the World Cup group stage, and they lost all three games in France four years ago.

New Zealand is not expected to win either match against the USWNT, but it needs to be more competitive to show progress from 11 months ago.

The home side enters in decent form with two wins and a draw in its last five games.

Defender Ali Riley, who plays for Angel City in the NWSL, is the player to watch in the New Zealand squad. She is the most capped player in the side and has experience dealing with the slew of talented attackers on the USWNT roster.

New Zealand needs to be competitive through a strong defensive effort. If that happens, it will gain more confidence ahead of the World Cup, which starts on July 20.


Prediction

USWNT 2, New Zealand 0

The USWNT has too much attacking firepower to be held down by a team it beat by five goals just a year ago.

Playing in Wellington will be a great preparation for the team's World Cup hopes. The Americans will return to the city in the summer for their second group-stage game against the Netherlands on July 27.

Meanwhile, Andonovski does not need to worry about his forward depth, and the quality in the final third will be the difference-maker over 90 minutes on Tuesday.