Tournament of Nations: Jill Ellis: 'Second place isn't good enough'

The USA won back the SheBelieves Cup in March against Germany, France and England, three of the top of five teams in the world. On Thursday, it begins its quest to capture the Tournament of Nations it lost to Australia in 2017.

Tournament of Nations:
Thursday, July 26
Brazil vs. Australia (4:15 pm ET)
USA vs. Japan (7 pm et, FS1)
(Venue: Kansas City, Kan.)
Sunday, July 29
Brazil vs. Japan (4:15 pm ET)
USA vs. Australia (7 pm ET, FS1)
(Venue: East Hartford, Conn.)
Thursday, Aug. 2
Australia vs. Japan (5:45 pm ET)
USA vs. Brazil (7:30 pm, FS1).
(Venue: Bridgeview, Ill.)

Unbeaten streak. Indeed, the 1-0 loss to the Matildas a year ago Friday in Seattle was the USA's last defeat. It is unbeaten in its last 16 matches (14-0-2) and averaged 3.1 goals per game during that streak.

And with as close to its complete first team it's had for the first time in a long while, the USA will take on Japan (ranked 6th in the world) on Thursday, Australia (8th) on Sunday and Brazil (7th) next Thursday.

Injury list shrinks. Mallory Pugh has been out with a knee injury suffered in June while Kelley O'Hara is sidelined with a hamstring strain.

But 2015 World Cup veterans Becky Sauerbrunn, Tobin Heath, Julie Ertz and Morgan Brian and Rose Lavelle and Samantha Mewis, both added to the regular mix since the 2016 Olympics, are all available for Coach Jill Ellis after missing time to injury.

Mewis, Heath and Lavelle have played only 110, 26 and 25 minutes, respectively, in 2018, so adding them into the mix means the competition for playing time will be fierce.

Reaffirming who is No. 1. By the end of next week, the USA will have played all seven teams below it in current FIFA rankings with reigning European champion Netherlands at No. 9 the only possible World Cup contender it has not faced.

For the American players, the Tournament of Nations will be as much about reaffirming who is No. 1 as it is about the preparing for the formality of 2019 World Cup qualifying in October.

Ellis says her players know the demands.

"Second place isn’t good enough,” she said on Wednesday. “That’s the expectation and what I think has helped propel this program so much.”

U.S. Roster:
Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns; 0/0)
Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 16/0)
Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 29/0)

Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 19/0)
Tierna Davidson (Stanford Univ.; 8/0)
Merritt Mathias (NC Courage; 1/0)
Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals; 139/0)
Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 21/0)
Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns; 17/0)

Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars; 75/6)
Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 61/15)
Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns; 51/5)
Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit; 8/2)
Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 254/100)
Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 36/7)
Allie Long (Seattle Reign; 39/6)
McCall Zerboni (NC Courage; 2/0)

Crystal Dunn (NC Courage; 64/23)
Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns; 133/19)
Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 142/86)
Christen Press (Utah Royals; 100/44)
Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign; 137/37)
Amy Rodriguez (Utah Royals; 131/30)
1 comment about "Tournament of Nations: Jill Ellis: 'Second place isn't good enough'".
  1. R2 Dad, July 26, 2018 at 12:06 p.m.

    If 2nd place isn't good enough, the USWNT better have at least 2 different strategies to win (and that doesn't necessarily mean formations). Balls over the top and down the channels won't be enough. Can our ladies play through the middle? Can we build out of the back and attack along the outsides? Can we hold possession in the attacking 3rd and recycle until an opportunity arises? Without Pugh to come back for balls on the right, I'm very curious how this will look. Good luck ladies!

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