A Return to Jacksonville, Five Years Later

WNT - Everbank Field 2012
WNT - Everbank Field 2012

In its first action after the 2018 SheBelieves Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team will play a pair of friendlies in April against its neighbor to the south, Mexico, as the USA continues its challenging preparation schedule in advance of World Cup qualifying this fall.

The first of the two matchups will take place in Jacksonville, Florida, at EverBank Field, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. The U.S. WNT hasn’t played in JAX (also referred to as Duuuuvaaaal County, give or take a few letters, by the locals) since Feb. 9, 2013 in a game against Scotland that the U.S. comfortably won by a 4-1 score.

The match, which drew an impressive attendance of 18,656 was, at first glance, a solid friendly for the U.S. WNT to kick start a new cycle and year after a successful Olympic gold medal-winning run in London. But perhaps more importantly, on the field, it was the beginning of some long-lasting storylines for the USA.

During that warm afternoon in Northern Florida, U.S. WNT forward Christen Press and midfielder Julie Johnston (now Julie Ertz, of course) earned their first U.S. WNT caps. Press started the game and played 72 minutes. She also went on to score two goals, becoming the 17th player in U.S. WNT history to score in her first cap and third to score a brace.

Johnston, then 20-years-old, was coming off a terrific 2012 with the U-20 WNT that saw her captain the team to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup title in Japan. She entered the game in the 83rd minute, replacing Becky Sauerbrunn on the back line to help secure the U.S. victory.

It’s been five years since their debuts, and five years since the U.S. WNT last played in Jacksonville, but in that time the pair of players have grown on the field and off, won a World Cup in 2015, and become veterans on a younger, new-look WNT team, a team that is now setting its sights on qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.