The USA’s three-game Send-Off Series, presented by Volpi Foods, to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup continues against New Zealand on May 16 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis (7 p.m. CT; ESPN2). Here are five things to know about New Zealand, an experienced team making its fifth Women’s World Cup appearance:
GOALKEEPERS (3): 21-Victoria Esson (Avaldsnes (NOR), 1-Erin Nayler (Girondins Bordeaux (FRA), 23-Nadia Olla (Western Springs)
DEFENDERS (8): 4-CJ Bott (Vittsjo GIK, SWE), 8-Abby Erceg (NC Courage, USA), 3-Anna Green (Miramar Rangers), 5-Meikayla Moore (MSV Duisburg, GER), 15-Sarah Morton (Western Springs), 2-Ria Percival (West Ham United, ENG), 7-Ali Riley (Chelsea, ENG), 6-Rebekah Stott (Avaldsnes, NOR)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 14-Katie Bowen (Utah Royals FC, USA), 20-Daisy Cleverley (UC Berkeley, USA), 16-Katie Duncan (Onehunga Sports), 12-Betsy Hassett (KR Reykjavik, ISL), 10-Annalie Longo (Unattached)
FORWARDS (7): 22-Olivia Chance (Everton FC, ENG), 11-Sarah Gregorius (Miramar Rangers), 9-Emma Kete (Unattached), 19-Paige Satchell (Three Kings United), 18-Stephanie Skilton (Papakura City), 13-Rosie White (Unattached), 17-Hannah Wilkinson (Unattached)
Playing in the USA
New Zealand has two players playing for NWSL clubs in midfielder Katie Bowen for the Utah Royals and team captain and center back Abby Erceg, who is freshly un-retired from the National Team. Forward Rosie White (Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars) and defender Rebekah Stott (Seattle Reign, Sky Blue FC) have also seen extensive time in the NWSL. White also played her college soccer in the USA, playing at UCLA alongside Samantha Mewis and Abby Dahlkemper.
Additionally, Hanna Wilkinson, who has scored several goals against the USA during the past few games, was star in the SEC at Tennessee, while Ali Riley, who grew up in Southern California and attended Stanford, and is currently playing in England with Chelsea FC, won a WPS title in 2010 with the Bay Area Gold Pride on a team that featured her college teammate Kelley O’Hara. Riley also played in the WPS in 2011 and with the Western New York Flash and won the title that year as well. She was the WPS Rookie of the Year in 2010 with the Gold Pride. Katie Bowen also played college soccer in the States at the University of North Carolina, and midfielder Daisy Cleverly is a rising junior at UC Berkeley.
New Zealand is also bringing its 23-player World Cup roster into the match which features a mix of youth and experience. The Football Ferns have nine players with 91 caps or more (the USA has eight) led by Ria Pervival (139 caps/14 goals) and Erceg (135/6). Veteran midfielders Annalie Longo and Betsy Hassett both earned their 100th caps against the USA during the match in 2017 in Colorado and both are now over 100 caps. Veteran midfielder Katie Duncan has compiled 122 caps while veteran forward Sara Gregorious – NZL’s top scorer – has tallied in more a third of her career games, bagging 33 goals in 91 caps. Powerful forward Hanna Wilkinson is one the NZL’s most dangerous attackers with 25 goals in 87 games.
Qualifying for France
As usual, New Zealand rolled through the Oceania World Cup qualifying tournament – held in New Caledonia last Fall – to earn its World Cup berth. New Zealand beat Tonga 11-0, Cook Islands 6-0 and Fiji 10-0 in group play. The Ferns then downed New Caledonia 8-0 in the semifinal Fiji again in the championship, this time 8-0. Gregorius led the Ferns with eight goals in the tournament. Emma Rolsten and White had six each and Bassett and Longo had four a piece.
New Zealand head coach Tom Sermanni is a widely liked and respected figure in women’s soccer. He is the former coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team (2013-2014, compiling a record of 18-2-4) and the long-time coach of the Australian Women’s National Team (2005-2012). This will be his third World Cup after coaching the Matildas in 2007 and 2011. Sermanni also coached the Orlando Pride in the NWSL for the first three seasons of its existence (2016-2018) and coached in the USA’s first pro league, the WUSA, from 2002-2003 with the New York Power. He was also an assistant coach for Canada at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Sermanni had a long-playing career at lower level clubs in England and Scotland from 1973-83 before playing semi-professional in Australia from 1984-1989, and then started his coaching career