Australia returns to international action in the Tournament of Nations against three top 10 nations United States, Japan and Brazil.
It has been just over four months since the Matildas were last in action, finishing fourth in the Algarve Cup in March 2017.
While the Matildas don’t play as regularly as many other national teams, this year Australia has faced some strong opposition and that trend continues in the US as they take on arguably the toughest test in women’s football; the USWNT in the United States.
Building squad depth continues
Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic brought a mix of regular, returning and new Matildas to the Tournament of Nations with the continued goal of building squad depth for the next cycle.
“Like I said many times, we are really building towards next year’s Asian Cup and the tournaments beyond, So this year is really the preparation for that,” said Stajcic.
“These matches are to give numerous players the opportunity to show their value at this level and to also see the flexibility in the squad.”
“I want to see how players work in different roles and the team using different formations for us to execute our game plan.”
In mid-July Stajcic held a Matildas camp at the AIS calling up several established Australian based players and Young Matildas to test them in the senior environment. However, his time with the full squad has been much more limited with the team only experiencing one full training session together since March.
Despite the limited preparations, the 43 year old is still expecting strong performances from his team, many of whom are currently in season in the NWSL, Norway and Japan.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the way the players have come in,” Stajcic said.
“Usually we have little more time but the way the players have come in this time has been at such a high level and at such a professional and mature level that my expectations for these three matches, and particularly the one against the USA, are very high.”
“The training level has been extraordinarily high so I am expecting good performances from our team.”
Taking on the World Champions
In 27 attempts, Australia has yet to taste victory over the United States. Taking on the current world champions in their backyard is the ultimate challenge and Stajcic believes his team can again be competitive against the word no. 1.
“I am looking for us to take the game to them as we have against everyone in the last 2 or 3 years,” he stated.
“We have some great examples of us taking the game to the top nations in the world; USA at the World Cup, Japan, Brazil, Germany at the Olympics, we were well in every match.”
Several Australian players enter the match in good form for their club sides. Leading that list is forward Sam Kerr who recently became the All time leading goalscorer in the NWSL. Kerr has been one of the most valuable players this season but she is not the only one enjoying a good club season.
Alanna Kennedy and Steph Catley have been regular contributors for Orlando Pride and Hayley Raso has played a big role in the Portland Thorns attack. Meanwhile in Europe Emily Gielnik and Tameka Butt have also been scoring regularly for their sides in Norway.
In the midfield Emily van Egmond and Elise Kellond-Knight return rested after long and successful seasons in Germany while Katrina Gorry and Caitlin Foord have been regulars in Japan.
The Australian attack and midfield look set to cause some issues but one area of concern is the defence.
Against an attack as potent as the United States, this may be one part of the field Austrlia could be exposed especially considering several of the regular defenders are currently out of season, not playing regularly with a club or have not been playing in the national team position.
“Most of the players that will start in the first game are in season and are playing quite regularly. That has been a big factor in the selection for this game in particular.”
“I am pretty pleased with squad that we have selected for the game and I know that they will be at a good level and ready to compete.”
As always Australia will have a side that is full of pace all across the pitch. It was that pace that set Germany on their heels at the Olympics and it would not be surprising if Stajcic deployed a starting XI that would look to test and stretch the American midfield and defence.
Australia’s opening match of the Tournament of Nations will be LIVE on Fox Sports 505. Follow The Women’s Game on Facebook and Twitter for coverage of the match.
USA v Australia
Century Link Field, Seattle
Kick-Off 7:00pm local time (12:00pm AEST Friday 28 July)
LIVE: Fox Sports 505
Record vs. USA: 0-25-2
AUSTRALIA SQUAD (by position)
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Lydia Williams (Houston Dash, USA), 18-Mackenzie Arnold (Brisbane Roar FC)
DEFENDERS (6 ): 3-Caitlin Cooper (Illawarra Stingrays), 4-Clare Polkinghorne (Brisbane Roar FC), 5-Laura Alleway (Unattached), 7-Steph Catley (Orlando Pride, USA), 14-Alanna Kennedy (Orlando Pride, USA), 21-Ellie Carpenter (Western Sydney Wanderers FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): 2-Gema Simon (Avaldsnes, Norway), 6-Chloe Logarzo (Avaldsnes, Norway), 8-Elise Kellond-Knight (FC Turbine Potsdam, Germany), 9-Caitlin Foord (Vegalta Sendai, Japan), 10-Emily van Egmond (VfL Wolfsburg, Germany), 13-Tameka Butt (Klepp I-L, Norway), 19-Katrina Gorry (Vegalta Sendai, Japan), 22-Alex Chidiac (Adelaide City)
FORWARDS (5): 11-Lisa De Vanna (South Melbourne), 15-Emily Gielnik (Avaldsnes, Norway), 16-Hayley Raso (Portland Thorns, USA), 17-Princess Ibini (Football NSW NTC), 20-Sam Kerr (Sky Blue FC, USA)
UNITED STATES SQUAD (by position)
GOALKEEPERS (2): 18- Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), 1- Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars); 21- Abby Smith (Boston Breakers)
DEFENDERS (7): 7- Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), 8- Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), 11- Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride); 5- Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), 4- Becky Sauerbrunn(FC Kansas City), 7- Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars); 16- Taylor Smith (NC Courage)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 6- Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), 10- Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), 20- Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), 3- Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), 17- Margaret Purce (Boston Breakers); 15- Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign)
FORWARDS (7): 19- Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC), 9- Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC); 2- Sydney Leroux (FC Kansas City), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride); 23-Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), 22- Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), 12- Lynn Williams (NC Courage)