USA-France: Women enter 'World Cup mode'

Like it did four years ago, the U.S. women's national team kicks off its World Cup year with a friendly against France.

Four years ago, they met in Lorient, and the Bleues won, 2-0. On Saturday, they meet in Le Havre. The Stade Oceane is the only World Cup venue at which France will play a warm-up match, and the game is sold out (22,870).

The game will be played to the backdrop of the demonstrations by the "Gilets jaunes" that have rocked France. They have called for "Acte 10," the 10th day of nationwide protests that began late last fall with demands for economic justice in the wake of growing inequality in economic opportunities within France, and they plan hold demonstrations in Le Havre on Saturday afternoon.

The USA and France are in different situations than they were four years ago. The U.S. lineup and tactics were unsettled four years ago. Starting goalkeeper Hope Solo had just been suspended and did not accompany to the USA to France. Nor did Megan Rapinoe, who was out with a knee injury. It was only later in the spring that Julie Ertz won the starting job at center back alongside Becky Sauerbrunn.

This time, Jill Ellis begins the year with her complete team, and a good idea of whom she will start. The USA is unbeaten in its last 28 matches (25-0-3) spanning 19 months, and has averaged 3.3 goals per game and has outscored its opponents 93-17 during the streak.

The 2-0 loss to France was just one of two defeats the USA has suffered in a series it leads with a 17-2-3 record.

"In the two matches, they were rebuilding," French captain Amandine Henry said of the two games the Bleues won. "They were testing systems and players. Tomorrow, they will fine-tune details like us. We are already in World Cup mode."

The second French win came at the 2017 SheBelieves Cup, where they beat the USA, 3-0, in the tournament finale. But since then, the Bleues have made a coaching change, and new coach Corinne Diacre has done a lot of experimenting.

Stars from the past like Camille Abily, who scored two of the three French goals in 2017, and Elodie Thomis have retired from the national team, and Louisa Necib, the most talented player of her generation, quit playing in 2016.

New players to watch include 23-year-old Aissatou Tounkara, who plays in Spain for Atletico Madrid, 21-year-old midfielder Onema Grace Geyoro and 22-year-center forward Valerie Gauvin.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto, 20, is considered France's top young forward. She scored the winner in Paris St. Germain's 1-0 win in the 2018 French Cup final to hand Lyon its only competitive loss in its last 63 games, but Diacre called her out after training on Tuesday for her poor attitude.

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash); Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).
DEFENDERS (8): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars); Crystal Dunn (NC Courage), Emily Fox (Univ. of North Carolina), Kelley O'Hara (Utah Royals); Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns).
MIDFIELDERS (8): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars), Danielle Colaprico (Chicago Red Stars), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars); Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit), McCall Zerboni (NC Courage).
FORWARDS (7): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Jessica McDonald (NC Courage), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Utah Royals FC), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign).

France Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Sarah Bouhaddi (Lyon), Solene Durand (Guingamp), Pauline Peyraud-Magnin (Arsenal, England)
DEFENDERS (8): Julie Debever (Guingamp), Sakina Karchaoui (Montpellier), Charlotte Lorgere (Guingamp), Amel Majri (Lyon), Eve Perisset (Paris SG), Wendie Renard (Lyon), Marion Torrent (Montpellier), Aissatou Tounkara (Atletico Madrid, Spain)
MIDFIELDERS (4): Charlotte Bilbault (Paris FC), Elise Bussaglia (Dijon), Onema Grace Geyoro (Paris SG), Amandine Henry (Lyon
FORWARDS (8): Viviane Asseyi (Bordeaux), Delphine Cascarino (Lyon), Kenza Dali (Dijon), Kadidiatou Diani (Paris SG), Valerie Gauvin (Montpellier), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (Paris SG), Eugenie Le Sommer (Lyon), Gaetane Thiney (Paris FC)

1 comment about "USA-France: Women enter 'World Cup mode'".
  1. R2 Dad, January 19, 2019 at 6:12 p.m.

    Well, that was ugly. France dominated. Their back line sterilized our attack. Our back line took a page out of the Michael Bradley Backpass-to-Victory playbook. When people complain about useless possession, you can point to this match. We had 53%, but most of that was in our half and thus ineffective. Ellis better find at least one other effective outside back in addition to Dunn and O'Hara.We'll be lucky to get to the semis in this form.

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