The United States women's national soccer team will continue its preparations for the Summer Olympics with a doubleheader of friendly games against Colombia this week, the first of which will be played at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, on Wednesday.
It's a chance for Jill Ellis to run rule over a squad that has been performing to a very high standard lately, as it continues to benefit from the momentum of last summer's Women's World Cup win. But Colombia is certainly a diligent opponent and a team that will put the world champions to the test over these two clashes.
The first match in East Hartford is one that'll be a pulsating occasion. Here are the key viewing details for the clash and a closer look at how this one is likely to pan out.
Date: Wednesday, April 6
Time: 7 p.m. (ET), 4 p.m. (PT)
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go
TV Info: Fox Sports 1
USWNT Gears Up for Engrossing Doubleheader
With a dispute over equal pay rumbling on in the background in recent weeks, the members of the United States side will be delighted to turn their focus to on-field matters again Wednesday.
This is an important contest, too. The Olympic Games are hurtling into view, and given there's such a vast pool of talent at the hand of Ellis, there are players who will need to show their very best in these games in order to ensure they're on the plane to Rio de Janeiro this summer.
The match is certainly one that should be an entertaining affair. According to Fox Sports' John Strong (h/t Jonathan Tannenwald of Soccer Morning), there'll be a sizable crowd in attendance, too:
According to the U.S. Soccer website, that would be an attendance record for the USWNT in the state of Connecticut. But given the caliber of player set to be on show, it's no surprise.
The likes of Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan have been named in the 23-person squad and will likely form a familiar spine of the side. But there are some emerging talents that seem primed to light up this venue.
One of those is Crystal Dunn, with the Washington Spirit star showing superb predatory instincts so far in 2016. As these numbers from the official USWNT feed note, the 23-year-old has started the calendar year in fine goalscoring form:
Ellis has also handed a maiden senior call-up to another vibrant, young forward in Ashley Sanchez, who's just 17 years old. The Southern California Blues striker impressed at the CONCACAF U17 Women's Championship in Grenada recently; here is a look at why there's a lot of hype about her:
While this game is friendly, it's not going to be without some feistiness. These two sides met in the World Cup last summer in what was a very physical match; ahead of that one, Lady Andrade—not in the Colombia squad for these games—stirred the pot, telling Paul Logothetis of USA Today the USWNT "belittle" her team.
Without Andrade and inspirational goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda, taking a positive result from this tussle will be difficult for the visitors, especially given that the USWNT will be in brilliant spirits, having performed well and sampled glory in the SheBelieves Cup recently. As Paul Carr of ESPN noted during that tournament, Ellis has shaped this team to play in different ways:
That means the XI players out on the field will find a way to get past Colombia. The USWNT is capable of tapping into a direct, high-pressure style of football should it wish, but here, it's likely to dominate possession and try to find a way of carving open a deep-sitting defence.
Looking at the players on show, the Americans will eventually do so. Colombia has some fine technical footballers and is renowned for its tenacity off the ball. But the United States seems to be building up a head of steam with the Olympics on the horizon, and that will be enough to see it home in East Hartford.
Prediction: United States 2-0 Colombia