Jill Ellis still has some time to tinker with her World Cup starting lineup, though she’s long had the luxury to plan for this summer.
When you’re the United States women’s national team manager, it’s all about the Olympics and the World Cup. Most friendlies can be won while experimenting, CONCACAF matches are straight-forward unless the opponent is Mexico, and the SheBelieves Cup is still growing in renown.
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So, yes, any uncertainty about the Yanks’ Best XI for a World Cup knockout round game is a head-scratcher, even with the wealth of talent at Ellis’ disposal as she attempts to make it back-to-back World Cup titles.
Seemingly the biggest questions are in the midfield, beginning with how often to deploy Carli Lloyd, and whether she’s a super sub or still an absolute force from the opening kickoff. Lloyd, 36, is a World Cup cycle removed from being crowned the best player in the world, but Rose Lavelle has been terrific when healthy.
The other questions is who to include in the other midfield spot near Julie Ertz, and both Lindsay Horan and Sam Mewis can lay righteous claims to starting bids. Still, Horan will get the chance to drive the bus more often than not in a roaming role.
With Thailand and Chile before Sweden, though, don’t be surprised if we get one last audition for Mewis or even Lloyd. Either way, opportunities abound against a Thailand team which regularly gives up multiple goals to top teams.
Here’s our bet:
O’Hara — Sauerbrunn — Dahlkemper — Dunn
Horan — Ertz
Heath — Morgan — Rapinoe