Welcome to your open thread for knockout-round-clinching freedom as we get set to watch our beloved United States take on Nigeria.
The USWNT looks to win Group D and advance in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup tonight with a victory over an athletic Nigeria squad. The Americans (1-0-1, 4 points) lead Group D and Nigeria (0-1-1, 1 point) may be last, but the African champions fought back multiple times to draw 3-3 with Sweden, a team the U.S. failed to score on.
Nigeria, ranked only 33rd but it is the top team in Africa and they won't be an easy opponent for a U.S. team that has struggled with midfield play and has yet to play anywhere close to its capabilities.
The Americans are coming off a very ho-hum 0-0 draw against Sweden in which neither team mustered too many clear-cut scoring chances and both squads were denied what appeared to be obvious penalties by the referee. For the U.S., Sydney Leroux and Christen Press were ineffective in the attack and Abby Wambach didn't fare much better as a substitute off the bench. The Yanks simply can't service their strikers if they can't maintain possession and that has been an issue in the first two games of this World Cup.
Nigeria fell 2-0 to Australia after their draw with the Swedes, perhaps returning to earth as this tournament wears on. A shaky back line is the biggest problem for the Nigerians, but they have scorers who can threaten even a well-organized defense.
Will this be the game U.S. Head Coach Jill Ellis finally hears our appeals for Tobin Heath? The U.S. could certainly use Heath's stabilizing presence and steady ball control.
The Americans seem to have no idea how to deploy the midfielders they've got and there is no right side wing who can direct an attack the way Megan Rapinoe does on the left. So the U.S. simply asks too much of Rapinoe, who can be brilliant at times but can also try to do too much herself (as she tried to do against Sweden). Heather O'Reilly could be that wing, but she seems to be persona non grata with Ellis.
Will Alex Morgan get a start? If so, would Ellis pair her with Wambach, with whom she seems to have such good chemistry? Will Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn continue to dominate? We'll find out tonight.
And don't forget to vote in our poll below.
U.S. Women's National Team (4-4-2):
Goalkeeper: Hope Solo
Defenders: Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg
Midfielders: Megan Rapinoe, Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath
Forwards: Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach
How to Watch:
Match time: 8 p.m. (ET)
Venue: BC Place, Vancouver, Canada
TV: FOX, NBC Universo
Live Stream: FOX Soccer 2GO USA
Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along with @StarsAndStripesFC or via @ussoccer.
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