After a combined score of 12-0 in a two game friendly series with Mexico, the United States Women’s National Team seems to be sitting in prime position heading into CONCACAF qualifying. There is little question on the American’s ability to perform at the tournament, sitting as heavy favorites to take first, the question centers around which players head coach Jill Ellis will choose to fill her 20 women roster.
The USWNT’s latest friendlies against their southern rivals answered several question (at the same time creating a handful more) that will make Ellis’s decision on that much more difficult as the team prepares for October.
Klingenberg and Rodriguez have made their case
Klingenberg spent most of 2014 her time in Sweden in the Damallsvenskan, but made it back in time to help the Houston Dash in four NWSL games.
The 26-year-old defender has not been a regular call up into camps but seems to have caught the eye of Ellis as she garners more playing time for the Americans. She played a full 90 in the first friendly followed by 61 minutes in the second.
Mexico’s offense didn’t provide much of a test for the outside back, but was more impressive was how easily Klingenberg was able to move up the pitch. She was critical in driving the ball down the right flank and into the attacking third to services crosses into her teammates.
It is hard to tell where Klingenberg sits on the depth chart. She is in a mix of outside defenders that include, Ali Krieger, Kelley O’Hara, Stephanie Cox and the young Crystal Dunn.
Amy Rodriguez will have an even harder time cracking Ellis’s lineup as she goes up against Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Christen Press and Sydney Leroux for what could be three to four spots on the top line.
Rodriguez was another questionable figure when camp call ups where being made throughout 2014. She saw 10 minutes coming off the bench against France in June, but hadn’t seen a start since the Algarve Cup in March.
Ellis gave the 27-year-old striker her chance in the second friendly where she was able to open the scoring in the nine-minute off a Mexico turnover. Rodriguez quietly finished her 28th international goal with a chip over the goalkeeper from 18 yards out.
Rodriguez has been scoring goals like that all year with 2014 NWSL Champions, FC Kansas City. She had 13 goals in the regular season and three in the playoffs – including a brace in the NWSL Final.
“I think that A-Rod gained a lot of confidence in the NWSL,” Wambach said. “The confidence factor is huge for any striker. For her to be in top form right now, playing really well – I don’t know what decisions Jill is going to make for out qualifying roster, but I know that Amy has done everything possible to put herself up for it.”
Morgan and Wambach are better together
2014 was riddled with injuries for America’s top striking duo. Morgan suffered from a prolonged ankle injury, which sidelined the striker for almost a year while veteran Abby Wambach faced an eye injury followed by knee issues.
But two friendlies against Mexico showed just how dangerous these two strikers can still be, especially together. They displayed flashes of 2012, when the duo matched a 21-year-old record set in 1991 with a combination of 55 goals between the two of them.
In the first friendly against Mexico, Morgan assisted on both of Wambach’s goals. Though the U.S. played a 4-3-3 formation throughout the two games, the forward duo made to the attack seem like a 4-4-2,using their typical 1-2 combination of speed and strength.
It’s a safe bet to assume that both Morgan and Wambach will make it on Elli’s qualifying roster but who will be the third forward that plays with this chemistry charged pair?
Ellis is sticking with the status quo
Former U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni was criticized for inconsistencies in his lineups, leading a loss of chemistry on the field. Ellis doesn’t appear to be making the same mistake.
Ellis made four changes between the two Mexican friendlies, giving players a chance to showcase their abilities to work though the attack in the 4-3-3 formation while maintaining a possession oriented style of play.
“Jill has done a great job of coming in, obviously on short notice, and rallying everybody and getting everybody on the same page,” said midfielder Megan Rapinoe in an interview with FOX Sports.” Getting everybody fired up and ready to go and consolidating going into qualifiers.”
Even while one of her player’s face serious repercussions from legal action in the coming weeks, Ellis stood by a consistent and familiar starting XI, which included keeper Hope Solo. Even allowing the No. 1 keeper to sport the captain’s armband in the later game.
CONCACAF qualifiers open for the Americans against Trinidad & Tobago in Kansas City on October 15.
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