PREVIEW: USWNT Kicks Off 2021 Against Colombia
The U.S. Women’s National Team will play its first match of the new year on Monday, Jan. 18 when it hosts Colombia at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida in what will be the USA’s first match on home soil in 313 days. The USA has not played at home since a 3-1 victory against Japan in Frisco, Texas on March 11, 2020 to win the 2020 SheBelieves Cup. This is the longest the team has gone without a domestic international match since the program’s infancy in the early 1990s. Coverage of USA-Colombia begins at 7 p.m. ET on FS1 and fans will also be able to follow the action via Twitter (@USWNT), Instagram (@USWNT), Facebook and the official U.S. Soccer App.
Monday’s game will be the seventh meeting all-time between the USA and Colombia and marks the first in a two-game set with the sides meeting again at Exploria Stadium on Friday, Jan. 22 (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both matches are being played at the same venue and in front of limited fans. The USA leads the all-time series with Colombia, holding a 5-0-1 record, with their most recent meeting coming in a 2-2 draw on Aug. 9, 2016 in Manaus, Brazil during the 2016 Summer Olympics. The USA is currently ranked #1 in the world while Colombia is ranked 26th.
Having qualified for the Tokyo Olympics at the beginning of 2020, the USA enters the new year on 32-match unbeaten streak and defeated the Netherlands, 2-0, on Nov. 27, 2020 in the team’s final match last year. The USA is currently on a 48-game home unbeaten streak which includes 43 wins and five draws. During this unbeaten streak, the USA has outscored the opposition 169-27, including a margin of 39-3 during its last 10 matches on home soil.
Off to a perfect 11-0-0 start in his tenure as head coach of the USWNT, head coach Vlatko Andonovski has called in 27 players for the USA’s annual January camp – also held in the Orlando area – and will name 18 players to each of the two match day squads.
The staging of the camp and the match will fall under the comprehensive U.S. Soccer Return to Play Protocols and Guidelines and in accordance with the Concacaf Return to Play Protocols and capacity for each match will be limited to no more than 4,000 ticketed fans.
USA DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit; 0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 3), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 25), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 64)
DEFENDERS (10): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA; 1/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 62/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 26/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 105/24), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 3/0), Ali Krieger (107/1), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 132/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 2/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 178/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 46/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 103/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 86/19), Jaelin Howell (Florida State; 1/0), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 46/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA; 0/0), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 15/1), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 67/18), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 16/0)
FORWARDS (5): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 294/123), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 63/18), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 168/52), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 29/9)
USA RIDES UNBEATEN 2020 INTO NEW YEAR: As with almost every team across the world, the USWNT certainly experienced a strange, stressful and highly unusual 2020. Due to a voluminous amount of work done by the U.S. Soccer Medical Staff, team staff and players to set and adhere to numerous safety protocols, the USWNT was able to return field last October for a training camp and then end the year with a match against the Netherlands in Breda on Nov. 27, a 2-0 win on goals from Rose Lavelle and Kristie Mewis. The USA finished 2020 with an 9-0-0 record after sweeping all five games at the 2020 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament and then winning all three games at the 2020 SheBelieves Cup. The match in the Netherlands gave the USA just nine total games in 2020, its fewest in a calendar year since 2009, when the team went 7-0-1.
RUN FOR OLYMPIC ROSTER RAMPS BACK UP: When Vlatko Andonovski was hired as head coach for the USWNT in late October of 2019, he thought he had a short run-up to prepare the team for the 2020 Olympics. When the global pandemic hit and the Olympics were postponed to 2021, his plans were altered to say the least, and without having a game or practice for more than seven months, he and his coaching staff took in NWSL Challenge Cup matches, Fall Series matches and more recently, matches from Europe to watch the players. Viewing those matches, combined with countless video meetings and review of games and video clips, helped prepare the coaching staff to resume the difficult job of eventually choosing the 18-player Olympic Team. That process finally resumed on-field again at the October 2020 training camp in Colorado, and then with a game against one of the world’s best teams in late November, giving him and his staff even more valuable information as they ramp the process back up to choose an Olympic roster which will feature just 16 field players and two goalkeepers. That is a Herculean task for any National Team coach, but even more so with a U.S. player pool featuring enviable depth at almost every position.
2021 STARTS WITH 27 PLAYERS IN FLORIDA: Andonovski called up 27 players for the training camp leading into the Colombia games. The roster is notable for which players are attending – Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Mallory Pugh and Andi Sullivan makes returns – and those who are not, as Alex Morgan tested positive for COVID-19, Christen Press was not called up so she could remain in England to regain her fitness after a bout of non-COVID illness, and Tobin Heath choose to remain with Manchester United to play in its January matches. Five players are in camp who currently ply their trade in Europe – or soon will -- in Samantha Mewis, Rose Lavelle and the newly-signed Abby Dahlkemper of Manchester City, once-capped Alana Cook, who is with Paris Saint-Germain in France, and Catarina Macario, who signed with Olympique Lyonnaise on Jan. 13, inking her first pro contract. Of the other 22 players, 21 play or will play in the NWSL in 2021, including Emily Fox, this year’s #1 pick in the NWSL Draft. Midfielder Jaelin Howell of Florida State is the only amateur in camp. Nineteen of the players on the roster were with the USA for the match in the Netherlands at the end of November and 16 of the players were on the 2019 Women’s World Cup champions. Just 10 players on the roster have experience in the Olympic Games. U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski will choose 18 players to suit up for each of the two matches.
USA ROSTER NOTES
Carli Lloyd is by far the most-capped player on the roster with 294, followed by defender Becky Sauerbrunn with 177 caps and Megan Rapinoe with 168. Although the USA is without three 100+ capped players on this roster (Alex Morgan-170, Tobin Heath-168 and Christen Press-138), midfielder Julie Ertz (103) and defenders Kelley O’Hara (132), Ali Krieger (107) and Crystal Dunn (105) also represent the USA’s Century Club.
On the other end of the spectrum, thirteen players on the roster have 29 caps or less. The average caps per player on this training camp roster is 61.
Of the 17 players from the October training camp in Colorado who were not on the 2019 World Cup Team, eight have made it to this January training camp roster: Goalkeepers Jane Campbell and Aubrey Bledsoe, defender Margaret “Midge” Purce, midfielders Jaelin Howell, Kristie Mewis and Catarina Macario and forwards Lynn Williams and Sophia Smith.
The only players who came into training camp looking for their first senior team are the 21-year-old Macario and 29-year-old goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
While the USA only played nine games in 2020, it is notable that 11 players scored goals last year: Lindsey Horan (7), Christen Press (7), Samantha Mewis (4), Rose Lavelle (3), Lynn Williams (3), Carli Lloyd (2), Jessica McDonald (2), Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz and Kristie Mewis. Of those 11 players, eight are on this roster.
The USA is riding a 32-game unbeaten streak – 29 wins and three ties -- and have scored two or more goals in 28 of those games. The USA is currently on a 48-game home unbeaten streak which includes 43 wins and five draws. During this unbeaten streak, the USA has outscored the opposition 169-27, including a margin of 39-3 during its last 10 matches on home soil.
In just his eighth event as head coach, Vlatko Andonovski has already looked at 56 different players in a training camp environment. Of those 56 players, 29 have earned at least one cap. Andonovski has given 16 players their first senior team call-ups and so far, four players their first senior team caps (Alana Cook, Margaret Purce, Sophia Smith and Jaelin Howell).
Since its inception in 1985, the USWNT has compiled a record of 530 wins, 66 losses and 77 ties. Over the history of the program, the USA has gone 302-20-31 (90% winning percentage) at home, 54-18-13 away (71%) and 174-28-33 (81%) on neutral ground. Of the USA’s 66 losses, 12 (18%) came at the Algarve Cup in Portugal.
The USA has scored in 60 consecutive matches and has averaged more than three goals per game in that time. Since the end of the 2015 World Cup, the USA has played 103 matches and has an 88-5-10 record.
Colombia Football Federation
FIFA World Ranking: 26
CONMEBOL Ranking: 2
Olympic Appearances: 2 (2012, 2016)
Best Olympic finish: 11th in both 2012 and 2016
Record vs. USA: 0-5-1
Head Coach: Nelson Abadía
COLOMBIA WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Natalia Giraldo (América de Cali), Sandra Sepulveda (Independiente Medellín), Valentina Gonzalez (Llaneros F.C.)
DEFENDERS (7): Kelly Ibarguen (Deportivo Cali), Daniela Arias (Junior F.C.), Orianica Velasquez (Junior F.C.), Jorelyn Carabali (Deportivo Cali), Carolina Arias (Deportivo Cali), Kelly Caicedo (Deportivo Cali), Nancy Acosta (Santa Fe)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Diana Ospina (Independiente Medellín), Ana Huertas (Santa Fe), Daniela Montoya (Junior F.C.), Maria Camila Reyes (Llaneros F.C.), Jessica Caro (América de Cali)
FORWARDS (7): Kena Romero (Santa Fe), Gisela Robledo (América de Cali), Catalina Usme (América de Cali), Ingrid Guerra (Deportivo Cali), Manuela Pavi (Deportivo Cali), Linda Caicedo (Deportivo Cali), Liana Salazar (Santa Fe)
The USA has played 37 matches against Brazil but has rarely faced other South American teams. The two friendlies vs. Colombia in April of 2016 were just the fourth and fifth meetings between countries and the clash in the 2016 Olympics was the sixth. The USA has also played Argentina three times, but there have been no other U.S. matches against CONMEBOL teams at the senior level.
The USA is 5-0-1 all-time against Colombia and all the games in world championships have been tight affairs while the two friendlies – 3-0 and 7-0 wins – were a bit less of a struggle. The USA has outscored Colombia 20-2 in the previous six meetings combined, blanking Colombia in every match up except for the most recent, a 2-2 draw in the 2016 Olympics.
The 2-2 draw with Colombia on Aug. 9, 2016 in Manaus marked the fourth consecutive world championship meeting between the two teams. In that game, Colombia scored first on a free kick that uncharacteristically slipped past U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo in the 26th minute. Crystal Dunn tied the match in the 41st and after 18-year-old Mallory Pugh scored in the 59th minute, becoming the youngest Olympic goal scorer in U.S. history, it seemed as if the Americans would ride out the win. But as stoppage time approached, Usme struck again, this time from a sharp angle out on the right wing. About 10 yards from the end line and near the right sideline, Usme whipped in a curling shot that flew through the goal mouth above the jostling players and into the far upper left corner of the goal for the dramatic late equalizer. The USA out-shot Colombia 16-3, but Colombia scored on two of its three shots.
The USA’s most recent meeting with Colombia was at 2016 Olympics, which was also Colombia’s most recent appearance in a world championship. Colombia did not get off to a good start in that Olympics, falling 4-0 to France with two goals coming off direct free kicks and an own goal. Colombia played better against New Zealand on the second match day of Group G but fell 1-0 despite having several good chances to equalize in the second half. Colombia’s best result was actually against the USA, a 2-2 tie in Manaus on the final day of group stage play. The result eliminated Colombia, but the USA advanced to the quarterfinal where it would fall to Sweden in penalty kicks.