The U.S. Women’s National Team returns to the field for its first matches since the Tokyo Olympics, taking on Paraguay for a pair of games over a span of five days. The two-game set kicks off on Thursday night at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2) and will wrap up on Tuesday, September 21 with a showdown at newly-opened TQL Stadium in Cincinnati (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and TUDN).
Here are Five Things to Know about Paraguay.
PARAGUAY BRINGS 18 PLAYERS TO USA
Paraguay, which is understandably excited about the opportunity to face the USA, has called in a roster of 18 players for the games against the USA. Despite the smaller size, the roster named by head coach Epifania Benítez does boast some experience, with nine of the 18 players having earned 25 or more caps at the senior level. Defender Limpia Fretes (54 caps) and midfielder Fanny Godoy (49 caps) are the most experienced players on this roster.
PARAGUAY WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (2): 12-Alicia Bobadilla (San Lorenzo de Almagro, ARG), 1-Cristina Recalde (C.D. Juan Grande, ESP)
DEFENDERS (9): 15-Sofía Almirón (Sol de América), 8-Lorena Alonso (Sol de América), 4-Daysy Bareiro (C.D. Juan Grande, ESP), 3-Limpia Fretes (Cerro Porteño), 13-Fiorella Martínez (Libertad-Limpeño), 2-María Martínez (Olimpia), 14-Deisy Ojeda (Olimpia), 11-Mirta Pico (Sol de América), 5-Tania Riso (Deportivo Capiatá)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 16-Cynthia Ayala (Minas Brasilia Futebol, BRA), 6-Fany Gauto (Santa Fe de Bogotá, COL), 10-Fanny Godoy (C.D. Juan Grande, ESP), 7-Celsa Sandoval (Esporte Clube Bahia, BRA), 17-Yanina Servín (Cerro Porteño)
FORWARDS (2): 18-Ramona Martínez (Olimpia), 9-Liz Peña (Libertad-Limpeño)
FIRST OF ITS KIND
The matches in Cleveland and Cincinnati will be the first ever meeting between the USWNT and Paraguay at the senior level.
The USA and Paraguay have squared off previously at the youth levels, playing once in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and twice in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. Current USWNT players Crystal Dunn and Kristie Mewis played against Paraguay at the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, a 3-1 U.S. victory. Kristie Mewis captained the squad while younger sister Samantha Mewis was an unused sub in that match.
In the USA’s 6-1 victory over Paraguay at the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, forward Sophia Smith came off the bench in the second half. Three years later at the 2019 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, Smith started and scored twice in the USA’s 6-0 win over.
Paraguay is also the 54th different country the USA has faced in its almost 36-year history.
Paraguay is currently ranked 50th in the world and fifth in South America behind Brazil (7th in the FIFA World Rankings), Colombia (26th), Argentina (35th) and Chile (37th). While historically the USA has rarely faced South American teams other than Brazil – which the USA has played 38 times – such has not been the case in 2021. In fact, the matches against Paraguay will mark the USA’s fifth and sixth games of the year against CONMEBOL opposition. The USA opened the 2021 campaign with a two-game set against Colombia in January, winning 4-0 on January 18 and 6-0 on January 22. The following month, the USWNT face off against both Brazil and Argentina at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup in Orlando, Florida.
Paraguay becomes the fifth CONMEBOL opponent the USA has faced at the senior level, joining Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. The USWNT has won its last 10 matches against CONMEBOL opposition, outscoring them, 37–4, in those games.
BACK IN ACTION
The September matches against the USA will be Paraguay’s second official competition of the year and the first since a 7-0 loss to Japan in Sendai in April. Paraguay had three matches against Colombia scheduled to be played in June, but they were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paraguay finished fourth at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, wining Group A over Colombia, Mexico and Jamaica, before falling in the semifinal to Argentina (3-0) and in the bronze medal game to Costa Rica (1-0).
Paraguay went out in the group stage of the 2018 Copa America Femeina, finishing third in its group behind Colombia and Chile, but did draw Chile and beat Peru and Uruguay. Paraguay lost to Colombia 5-1. Its group finish was good enough to earn a berth to the 2019 Pan American Games.
EYES ON 2023 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
With the expansion of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to 32 countries, Paraguay will be hoping to earn one of three automatic berths via the 2022 Copa America Femenina or – if they can finish fourth or fifth -- one of two berths into the 10-team playoff tournament that will produce the last three teams for the World Cup tournament.
Paraguay is a growing women’s soccer country but does have seven players on this roster playing their club soccer abroad with three in Spain, two in Brazil, one in Argentina and one in Colombia. The added club experience along with friendlies such as the two-game set against the USA will prove as valuable preparation as Paraguay seeks to qualify for its first ever world championship in women’s soccer.