For the first time since 2015, the United States Women's National Team will compete in the month of December. In fact, against the same exact opposition — China.
With Emma Hayes confirmed as the new manager, there was a perception that a splash would be made. That was correct. Hayes is still in West London and is not assuming the role until late May. That does not mean she isn't playing some part in the Stars and Stripes' build-up to the Olympics. Why wouldn't she?
According to U.S. Soccer, the players that make up this last camp follows a plan created by Twila Kilgore, U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker, and Hayes herself. The team has begun to move away from a few of the players that made up the last Women's World Cup team. Those include Alex Morgan, Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Crystal Dunn among others. Kilgore made sure the public did not panic. By no means are these legends out of contention for the summer in Paris.
The interim manager stated, "We value these players who have recently been in camps or played in the World Cup and were not chosen for this roster, and they are of course still a part of our pool, but we know what they bring on and off the field. At the same time, we also need to continue to evaluate and bring along players in the right ways to give the team the best chance for success.”
That gave space to some first-timers and a few familiar faces from the past. Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Korbin Albert, and NJ/NY Gotham winger Jenna Nighswonger were both named to their first senior national team camp. The two represent two of the eight players within this team that have five or fewer appearances at this level. Jane Campbell, Houston Dash's season MVP enters the frame after over two years on the outside looking in. San Diego Wave defender Abby Dahlkemper is back into the mix following her successful recovery from a back injury.
The friendlies against Colombia sent a message to the federation that the youth is ready. The response was to bring in even more of what made the last window a success in the end. With the kind of displays the two put out last time, Chelsea standout Mia Fishel and Jaedyn Shaw should continue to get significant looks.
The Olympics are inching closer and closer with each window. With the way the World Cup went, there is going to be a lot of pressure on this team to perform. From the roster to the opponent to the predicted lineups, here is everything you will need to know before tuning into the match on December 2.
26-player roster for two friendlies against China
Goalkeepers: Casey Murphy, Jane Campbell, Aubrey Kingsbury
Defenders: M.A. Vignola, Abby Dahlkemper, Alana Cook, Tierna Davidson, Emily Fox, Naomi Girma, Casey Krueger
Midfielders: Sam Coffey, Olivia Moultrie, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Savannah DeMelo, Korbin Albert, Emily Sonnett, Jenna Nighswonger
Forwards: Lynn Williams, Midge Purce, Mia Fishel, Alyssa Thompson, Ashley Hatch, Trinity Rodman, Jaedyn Shaw, Sophia Smith
What you need to know about the USWNT's opponent, China
It has not been pretty since the tough elimination in the group stage this past summer in the World Cup for China. Some would classify it as a disaster. The Asian outfit will also be led by an interim manager following the sacking of Shui Qingxia by the Chinese Football Association on Monday.
The former player was in charge of the Steel Roses for two years before falling short of Olympic qualification for the first time since 2012. According to the CFA, there is going to be "careful consideration” about who the next permanent leader is going to be. A 1-1 draw against South Korea confirmed the Chinese's fate. Only two teams from the Asian Football Confederation will travel to France this summer. China will not be one of them. It is down to Uzbekistan, Japan, Australia, and North Korea in the AFC. Only half will punch a ticket.
On top of falling out of Olympic qualification, the Steel Roses finished third in the Asian Games, a tournament in which they hosted in September and October. Four first-half goals by the Japanese ousted them out of the competition. This country was once a powerhouse in women's football, one that competed side by side with the 1999 USWNT World Cup team. Now, after its earliest-ever exit in the World Cup, and its second-ever failed Olympic qualification, China has arguably hit rock bottom.
To make matters even worse, its most dynamic play-maker Wang Shuang is out injured. The Asian outfit will still have forward Wang Shanshan, new Brighton and Hove Albion right back Li Mengwen, and 22-year-old current Celtic midfielder Shen Mengyu among others against the U.S.
Schedule for USWNT December friendlies
USWNT vs. China, Saturday, December 2 at DRV PNK Stadium, 3:00 p.m. EST
Where to watch: TNT, Universo
USWNT vs. China, Tuesday, December 5 at Toyota Stadium, 8:00 p.m. EST
Where to watch: TruTV, Universo
Predicted USWNT lineups for China friendlies
Predicted starting XI in Fort Lauderdale:
Goalkeeper: Jane Campbell
Defenders: Naomi Girma, Tierna Davidson, Emily Fox, Casey Krueger
Midfielders: Lindsey Horan, Savannah DeMelo, Emily Sonnett
Forwards: Mia Fishel, Trinity Rodman, Lynn Williams
Predicted starting XI in Frisco:
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy
Defenders: Naomi Girma, Abby Dahlkemper, Emily Fox, Jenna Nighswonger
Midfielders: Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Sam Coffey
Forwards: Jaedyn Shaw, Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith
Tickets are still available through U.S. Soccer's website on Ticketmaster