Date: Wednesday, March 1st
Time: 7:00 PM Eastern, 6:00 PM Central, 4:00 PM Pacific, 12:00 AM UTC
Venue: Talen Energy Stadium, (Chester, Pa.)
Television: United States - FS1; Germany - Sport1 Germany
Streaming: Fox Sports Go, fuboTV (Free trial + monthly subscription
All-time record: 20-4-7 (Last meeting, 2-1 USA, Mar. 9 2016, SheBelieves Cup)
The United States Women’s National Team kicks off their 2017 campaign with the SheBelieves Cup, featuring four of the top five ranked teams in world in a round robin. They start the event today against Germany, the No. 2 team in the World coming off an Olympic gold medal in 2016. The USA will do so at Talen Energy Stadium, home to the Philadelphia Union. While the matches in the Cup hold little actual bearing to the success of the teams involved, they are a good early measuring stick for the 2017 pecking order.
What to watch for Germany
Despite the USA’s No. 1 ranking, the Germans are the best team in the world on paper and in practice, and proved it at the Olympics. The USWNT actually feels the pressure to catch up for the first time since the 2011 World Cup. The Germans however will have to deal with a new head coach, as Steffi Jones has replaced the legendary Silvia Neid. Jones will see this tournament as an important barometer before the Euros this summer, which Germany has won six consecutive times.
The German roster is loaded with talent and one advantage the team has is that the Bundesliga is already 12 matches into its season while NWSL training camps have not yet started.
One of the most dangerous players to watch for Germany is striker Anja Mittag who has 49 international goals and 149 caps. She scored the last time the two teams met at the SheBelieves Cup in 2016.
The other two young stars of the side are Alexandra Popp and Dzsenifer Marozsan who are 25 and 24, respectively. The two both already have 30 or more international goals and more than 65 caps.
The Germans can match the Americans in technical excellence and physicality, and do not have any area where they are clearly outmatched.
What to watch for the USA
2017 is not a particularly important year for the USWNT, unlike their men’s counterparts or their European opponents in the SheBelieves Cup. Instead, head coach Jill Ellis must rebuild her side’s confidence after a worst-ever showing in program history in a quarterfinal exit at the Olympics last summer. Because it is such a down year in terms of major competitions, this tournament could actually be the biggest week of the season for the squad.
Outside of the ‘usual suspects’ of Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn and Tobin Heath who all have over 115 caps, the rest of the roster is relatively young with 12 players having under 20 caps. In addition to those four, the Americans still have their usual firepower with Crystal Dunn and Christen Press up top alongside familiar faces Morgan Brian, Julie Johnston, Kelly O’Hara and Ali Krieger throughout the team.
The key tactical development to watch for Ellis’ side will be how they fare in a 3-5-2, a gambit tested by Ellis in the fall friendlies to give the USA an extra edge against stiffer opposition. The first test will be tonight, and a lot of pressure falls on the back three, particularly Sauerbrunn and converted midfielder Allie Long to shut down a potent German attack.
In net, the Americans are still finding their way in the post-Hope Solo era and Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris are battling for the No. 1 spot. Both are extremely competent and while Naeher might have the initial edge right now, a positive tournament for either could go a long way in the two years to come.
What to expect
Germany comes into this match more seasoned in the new year and as the best team in the world, while the USA is trying to sort out new tactics, fresh faces, and rebound from a difficult 2016. The USA does have home field advantage and reigning FIFA Women’s Player of the Year in Carli Lloyd, but the team just might be a few steps behind.
Prediction: 1-1. The Germans dominate and look the better side but are forced into a draw by passable American team.