The USA romped to its third world title with a 5-2 win over Japan in the 2015 Women's World Cup final, but it was very much a work in progress up until the semifinals in
U.S. Soccer changed coaches after the Algarve Cup in April 2014, firing Tom Sermanni and replacing him with Jill Ellis. But even as late as February 2015, four months before the World Cup, the USA was run off the field by France in Lorient.
Ertz wasn't inserted into the starting lineup -- at center back -- until the Algarve Cup in March 2015. And the USA didn't come together at the World Cup until Ellis settled on her central midfield in the 4-5-1 formation -- Lauren Holiday, Morgan Brian and Carli Lloyd -- and Alex Morgan -- who was coming off a knee injury -- as the lone striker.
This time, Ellis has two things going for her: her lineup is set, and every key player is healthy (with the lone exception of Stanford defender Tierna Davidson). That's the scary part -- things can only go wrong from here.
After Wednesday's Canada game, Ellis insisted there is still room for improvement.
“It feels like a starting point in terms of where we want to be,” she said. "Every game we’ve played this year, it’s about preparing us for next summer. We can get better in every facet. To get this done, we certainly have to continue to make strides.”
There won't be much time for that. This is how the schedule shapes up between now and June 7 when the Women's World Cup kicks off:
-- Nov. 5-13: Two games in Europe during FIFA window.
-- January: Training camp in Europe in lieu of California camp.
-- Feb. 25-March 6: SheBelieves Cup during FIFA window.
-- April 1-9: Two games during FIFA window.
-- May: Pre-World Cup training camp and three games in kickoff series.