Olympics: Preview Notes – United States (Group G)

LIKE AN ACTING COMPANY’S FAVORITE PLAY — Once again, the United States finds itself in USWNT: Olympic Redemption, A Triumph in Two Acts. The first act ends with a disappointing finish in Women’s World Cup. And, the second act is suppose to end a year later with the USWNT wearing Olympic Gold Medals around their necks. At least that’s how the play’s inaugural run ended in 1996, along with its two revivals in 2004 and 2008. But, complicating the matter will be the guest actresses that play the final team of antagonists, who may decide to go off script and ad-lib a different ending.

  • How They Qualified: Top 2 finish in CONCACAF qualifying (Champions)
  • FIFA Rank: #1
  • Previous Olympics: 2008 (Gold), 2004 (Gold), 2000 (Silver), 1996 (Gold)
  • 2011 WWC Performance: Runners-Up
  • Key Players: Abby Wambach (forward), Alex Morgan (forward), Hope Solo (goalkeeper)
  • Head Coach: Pia Sundhage (Sweden)
  • Team Captain: Christie Rampone
  • Recent Form: W, W, W, W, W, W
  • Group Finish Probabilities: 1st, 60%; 2nd, 25%; 3rd, 13%; 4th, 2%
  • Medal Chances: Strong

RECENT MATCHES — The USA has won all six of recent matches, four official friendlies and two closed-door friendlies. Among these wins is a 4:1 drubbing of a supposedly jet-lagged Japan and a 3:1 win over Sweden, both in Sweden. The only match that raises some real concern is the 4:1 win over China, which began with the USA struggling and conceding an early goal, but the USA was able to turn the game around by halftime and take a 2:1 lead.

GROUP CHANCES — The USA will get out of the group. NBC’s scheduling department is so sure of that that there is already a timeslot for a repeat of the team’s quarterfinal match. The main question is whether the United States or France wins the group, with that likely to be decided in the two team’s opening match versus each other. Absent a slow start, the USA should have a solid chance of getting a win. After that, the United States plays Colombia and North Korea, who were grouped with the USA at the 2011 WWC. In all likelihood, those two matches will be easier wins compared to 2011. The conventional wisdom is that North Korea is technical and well-organized, thus difficult. But, missing from the usual discussion is that have a weakness: predictability. (See U-17 USWNT head coach Albertin Montoya’s comments on the U-17s’ group opponents at USSoccer.com.)

INJURIES — In the send-off match versus Canada, Alex Morgan suffered a knee injury, which turned out to be only a scare. She played in the USA’s closed-door scrimmage against Norway on July 15th.

PROBABLE STARTERS — The line-up from the send-off match versus Canada is generally considered to be Sundhage’s preferred set of starters for the Olympics:

Solo (GK)
LePeilbet (RB) — Rampone (CB) — Buehler (CB) — O’Hara (LB)
Rapinoe (RM) — Boxx (HM) — Cheney (AM) — Heath (LM)
Wambach (FW) — Morgan (FW)

Wide midfielder Heather O’Reilly has been benched because Sundhage wants less predictably, but that switch seems much less set in stone than Cheney fully claiming the attacking midfielder spot from Carli Lloyd, which is generally seen as a welcomed and overdue change.

However, the drums have been beating for much longer to replace Rachel Buehler with Becky Sauerbrunn, among other candidates, including twice-capped Whitney Engen who is not even an alternate. But, Sundhage has been steadfast in keeping Buehler a regular feature of the USA’s starting line-up. Although, Sauerbrunn did play against France in last year’s Women’s World Cup semifinal as Buehler was serving her questionable red card suspension for a possibly phantom foul against Marta in the epic quarterfinal versus Brazil.

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