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Predicting The Starting Lineup Of The USWNT For Its Match Against China

The United States and China have a bit of history in the World Cup. The last time these two teams met in the competition in 1999, the USWNT won the match, and went on to win the entire tournament. A high standard to live up to, especially considering that the US has yet to hit its best, most convincing form. Despite that, head coach Jill Ellis believes that her players will be up to the challenge when they face off against China today at 9:30 pm EST.   

"[The players] understand that we need to continue to raise our level with each round. It's not a matter of being satisfied. These are players that love challenges. The coaches in here have high expectations, but it's about getting them to that point. We're capable of a lot more, and that's the expectation on ourselves."

Whether or not her team can reach its potential begins with its starting lineup, and we are going to try and predict what that starting lineup will be.

Ellis’ roster is more talented than China’s from top to bottom, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have any selection headaches. Headaches that are further complicated by the suspensions of Megan Rapine and Lauren Holiday through accumulation of yellow cards. 

The absence of Megan Rapine is especially painful, as she has been one of the most consistently impactful players throughout the entire tournament. Her likely replacement, Christen Press, is very capable herself, but she has not been able translate her exceptional club play onto the international stage yet. Press has looked good at times, nothing more. 

Holiday will likely be replaced by either Morgan Brian or Shannon Boxx. Those two represent the opposite ends of the age spectrum — Brian is 22 and Boxx is 37 — and they subsequently bring different advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, Boxx is the more experienced player, and hence less likely to be phased by the stage that is the World Cup. That being said, Brian is no stranger to high profile games herself, and has already made 2 appearances as a substitute in this World Cup. Because of China’s penchant for sitting back defensively, the young legs of Brian will probably be favored over Boxx; she just provides more going forward than her veteran counterpart. 

Ostensibly, that’s where the uncertainty surrounding the starting XI ends. The defense will remain the same, as Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Megan Klingenberg have started and finished every single game so far. Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach will surely start as well. Morgan is rounding into full match fitness and is arguably the team’s best player, and Wambach has a massive height advantage over the Chinese. That height advantage will be invaluable as the Chinese defense will look to clog passing lanes and disrupt short build-up play, making long balls over the top and crosses critical routes of attack because of Wambach’s legendary heading ability. Rounding out the XI will be midfield regular Carli Lloyd and winger Tobin Heath. Heath has started the past 2 games, and her creativity on the wing will be almost as invaluable as Wambach’s height advantage and heading ability. Hope Solo will of course be in goal.

So, our predicted USWNT starting XI is:

G - Hope Solo

D - Ali Krieger

D - Becky Sauerbrunn

D - Julie Johnston

D - Megan Klingenberg

M - Christen Press

M - Morgan Brian

M - Carli Lloyd

M - Tobin Heath

F - Alex Morgan

F - Abby Wambach

Prepare yourselves, USWNT fans. This is going to be an intense game.

Follow me on Twitter: @yetly

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