Jill Ellis will be having a few sleepless nights between now and the World Cup final on Sunday in Lyon.
The USWNT face the Netherlands in the 2019 final (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET online via Telemundo Deportes) with a few injury issues to contend with, while the main problem for Ellis is that she can only select 11 players to start.
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After gritty wins against Spain, France and England to reach a third-straight World Cup final, plenty of players have stood tall for the defending champs as Ellis shuffled her pack for the epic semifinal victory.
Will she revert to the same lineup which started against France and Spain for the final? Or are more shocks coming up?
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Here’s a look at how we think the USWNT should start on Sunday as they aim to go back-to-back.
USWNT starting lineup for 2019 World Cup final
—– Naeher —–
—- O’Hara —- Sauerbrunn —- Dahlkemper —- Dunn —-
—- Lavelle —- Ertz —- Horan —-
—- Heath —- Morgan —- Press —-
Quite simply, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, Jill. The USWNT looked balanced and dangerous against a very good England side in the semifinal and just like in previous games they were solid enough defensively and were composed, if not exhilarating, in attack.
The center back pairing are a bit of a weak spot in the team, but at this point Sauebrunn and Dahlkemper deserve to play in the final. As do Lindsey Horan and Christen Press who both came in and did extremely well against England. Press in particular has given Ellis a huge selection headache as Megan Rapinoe may be left out in the final. Both Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle are nursing injuries but both have declared themselves fit for Sunday’s final because, well, if you’re a player you don’t rule yourself out of playing in the World Cup final, do you?
With the Netherlands possessing plenty of trickery out wide with Lieke Martens and Lineth Beerensteyn, having Press and Tobin Heath out wide to track back is just as important in the final as it was against England. If Lavelle isn’t fit then Sam Mewis is a dependable player to bring in and shore up central midfield alongside the excellent Julie Ertz, but Lavelle’s dynamism and runs into the box give the U.S. a different dimension in midfield.
It will be harsh to leave Rapinoe and Mewis out, but Ellis is on the verge of becoming the first coach in history to win back-to-back women’s World Cup titles. Sentiment has to go out of the window, and Ellis isn’t afraid to do that.