After two games in group play all seems to be going according to plan for the USWNT. Following a hard fought victory against France, their biggest challenge in group play, the team closes out the group when they face Columbia later today. Columbia is known for playing a physical game against the US women (see Lady Andrade punching Abby Wambach) but Jill Ellis has little cause for concern in terms of winning the match. A USWNT built from alternates and players that didn’t even make the trip would still be favored to beat Columbia (or most teams) so Ellis has a chance to rest her starters and earn some minutes for her reserves.
Sweden looks like the most likely opponent for the US women and that could cause concern given their recent success against Lloyd and company. This is, however, a much different team than Pia Sundhage coached, and a team that is much more adaptable and dangerous. Ellis will certainly rest some players, which ones remain to be seen, but having already clinched a spot in the knockout rounds the health of this team is paramount to success. The reserves probably won’t hold up against Germany, Canada, or France again.
Goalkeeper: Hope Solo hates coming out of the lineup but Alyssa Naeher earned her spot and deserves to play. It wouldn’t be a shock if this was a second half substitution situation but expect Naeher to get some minutes somewhere.
Centerbacks: Becky Saurbrunn will certainly start and Whitney Engen played well enough to hold down Julie Johnston’s position for another week if need be. I would expect Johnston and Saurbrunn to both start but Engen to come in early for Johnston. Sub Engen
Fullbacks: Ali Krieger, making her first Olympic roster, deserves to start a game. Either Kelley O’Hara or Klingenberg could rest since O’Hara can play both positions.
Central Midfield: As good as Morgan Brian is, and she is very good, The former Virginia star is coming off of an injured hamstring. Ali Long has gone from long shot to make the team to multiple game starter. Lindsey Horan has been great since being called up to the team and can easily step into the 8 spot that Brian has been playing in order to rest Brian. Carli Lloyd will start, of course.
Wingers: Megan Rapinoe might not be back to 100% but, having made the team and all, she should be able to put in some time. Tobin Heath, the team’s best player in the tournament so far and Crystal Dunn should both start with Rapinoe possibly replacing Heath. Sub Rapinoe
Forward: Christen Press can’t seem to find as many minutes as she deserves and this game could be an opportunity for her to get in the action and establish some confidence for later in the tournament. Morgan does a lot of things for this team beyond scoring but Lloyd, Dunn and Heath on the pitch Press could excel as the lone winger.