The United States will play their penultimate warmup match ahead of next month’s Women’s World Cup when taking on Concacaf rival Mexico at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif, on Sunday. The U.S. team will begin their campaign in Canada by taking on Australia in Winnipeg on June 8, after their final preparation friendly against South Korea on May 30. The clock is now very much ticking on preparations for the Yanks’ attempts to land the World Cup for the first time since 1999.
And while all involved play down the significance, it will certainly be a concern that star striker Alex Morgan will again not feature against Mexico. Initially expected to miss two matches with a bone bruise on her left knee, the 25-year-old will now reportedly also sit out the final warmup against Korea. She is, though, still expected to feature once the real business gets underway in Canada.
It is hardly ideal preparation, however, for the team ranked No. 2 in the world. And, in truth, the circumstances have not been ideal throughout the team’s buildup for the event. After the solidity provided by Pia Sundhage’s reign, which produced Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012, it is only 14 months since Jill Ellis took charge following the short-lived reign of Tom Sermanni.
It has not been all smooth sailing since. A 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago to begin World Cup qualifying last October was far from resoundingly impressive, while a 2-0 friendly defeat to France in February suggested that this was a team still with plenty of work to do. While signs of improvement were there in gaining revenge with a 2-0 win over France in the Algarve Cup a month later, Ellis was under no illusions that there is still plenty of work to be done when speaking after the U.S. beat the Republic of Ireland 3-0 in San Jose on Sunday.
“The expectation is for more and I think the players expect that of themselves too,” she said, according to the U.S. Soccer website. “We got a lot of set pieces and we scored some set pieces goals, which I was pleased with, but I think we’ve got to increase that number and certainly finish some chances around the box. Again, I thought we had some quality chances, we just need to fine-tune that. We’ve got to put those away.”
Abby Wambach was one of several players to miss a golden chance in the match, still the veteran striker was also one of the major positives. The 34-year-old scored twice to take her record tally for the U.S. to 180 and gain some much needed sharpness having made the decision not to play in the National Women’s Soccer League this season. Even a bloodied nose couldn’t halt Wambach’s progress toward her World Cup swansong.
“It is what it is,” she said. “At this stage going into the World Cup you can either get X-Ray’s and scans, but if you’re not going to do anything about it what’s the point in my opinion. So it doesn’t matter if it’s broken or not, I’m pushing forward.”
The U.S. beat Mexico 3-0 when the countries last met in the semifinals of the World Cup qualifying tournament last year. And it has dominated the rivalry with its neighbors to the south, holding a 30-1-1 record. Mexico will be playing in just its third Women’s World Cup this summer and have failed to get out of the group stage in its two previous tournaments.
Kickoff time: 9 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, Galavisión
Live stream: Fox Sports Go