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2015 Women's World Cup - USA vs. Sweden

Two of the world's best teams meet today in a crucial Group D match. Two former Bruin standouts--Sydney Leroux and Lauren Holiday--will play key roles today for former UCLA Coach Jill Ellis.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">TONIGHT <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Christen Press (@ChristenPress) <a href="">June 12, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

USA vs. Sweden

Kickoff: 5:00 PM PDT

Location: Winnipeg

Live Streaming and International Coverage

United States Coverage: Fox Sports 1 USA, Fox Sports GO, FOX Network, NBC Deportes En Vivo Extra, Fox Soccer 2Go USA, SiriusXM FC, NBC UNIVERSO, NBC UNIVERSO NOW

When the 2015 Women's World Cup fixture list was released, the contest between #2 USA and #5 Sweden was identified as the best of the group stage matches. But when Sweden could only manage a draw in its opening Group D match against Nigeria, the outlook for today's game changed. Sweden now needs a win in one of its final two matches to advance to the knockout stage of the competition, especially with Australia defeating Nigeria 2-0 in today's early game. Consequently, we may see a more aggressive approach to this game from the Swedes, particularly in terms of attacking play down the flanks, where the USA has proven vulnerable.

As I mentioned after the USA-Australia match, Coach Jill Ellis has problems in midfield. There wasn't a natural holding midfielder in Coach Ellis' side, which left the USA exposed in the center of the pitch against Australia. Although the United States escaped with a 3-1 win, Australia dominated the first half with the Americans struggling to cope with Australia's pace. It's not clear yet how Coach Ellis intends to deal with this problem, but it's a problem that needs to be addressed if the USWNT is going to make a deep run in the knockout stage. Sweden may not have the pace of Australia, but they have much better finishers and more tactical acumen than Australia, so they should be able to exploit the weakness if Coach Ellis doesn't make some adjustments.

The former coach of the USWNT and current coach of the Swedish women's national team, Pia Sundhage, may have inadvertently intensified feelings going into this game with her frank comments in the New York Times about her former players. Among the highlights:

  • According to Sundhage, "Carli Lloyd was a challenge to coach...When she felt that we had faith in her, she could be one of the best players. But if she began to question that faith, she could be one of the worst."
  • "Hope Solo, whose various off-field disciplinary issues lingered over the run-up to the World Cup, and burst into the open again this week, was one of the most challenging players Sundhage has ever coached, "especially when it comes to trouble."
  • "Abby Wambach, 35, who is playing in her fourth World Cup, would not be a starter if Sundhage still coached the team."

Depending on your point of view, the timing of Sundhage's comments may be ill-considered or strategic, but I find it difficult to disagree with her last two points. If Alex Morgan is healthy, she should start alongside former UCLA standout Sydney Leroux instead of Wambach. And describing Hope Solo as a player prone to "trouble" is generous in its understatement.

For me, the key player is another former UCLA star--Lauren Holiday. She's being asked to play as a defensive midfielder, which takes her away from her strengths as a player, If she can protect the back four for the United States, Leroux, Christen Press, and Megan Rapinoe should be able to fire the USA past Sweden.



Coach Ellis has Abby Wambach on the bench to start the game. Christen Press will start up front alongside Sydney Leroux instead of playing on the right side of midfield. UCLA nemesis Morgan Brian moves into a starting role in the midfield, although it's unclear at this point if she'll simply slot into Press' previous spot on the right side or if Coach Ellis will use a different midfield shape.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">And here are the starters again! One change as <a href="">@moeebrian</a> comes in for <a href="">@AbbyWambach</a>! <a href="">#OneNationOneTeam</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) <a href="">June 12, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

POS No Name
G 1 Hope Solo
D 4 Becky Sauerbrunn
D 11 Ali Krieger
D 19 Julie Johnston
D 22 Meghan Klingenberg
M 10 Carli Lloyd
M 12 Lauren Holiday
M 14 Morgan Brian
M 15 Megan Rapinoe
F 2 Sydney Leroux
F 23 Christen Press

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Subs for the <a href="">#USWNT</a> tonight! <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) <a href="">June 12, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>