The USWNT trounced New Zealand 5-0 on Wednesday in one of their final tune up games before the World Cup. Don’t let the score line fool you into thinking that the U.S. played easy competition. New Zealand is a World Cup squad, and qualified into pot three of the World Cup draw. Four players scored against the Kiwis, and three look to be starters for Jill Ellis’ squad come June 11, the opening match for the U.S. against Thailand. The other? Sam Mewis.
Mewis, who graduated from UCLA and plays for the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL, probably won’t start in the World Cup, should everyone stay healthy, but could end up being Jill Ellis’ most valuable player.
The 26-year-old midfielder has scored in two of of the U.S.’s three send off matches, totaling three. She was the Woman of the Match in games against South Africa – after scoring a brace—just four days before scoring again versus New Zealand.
Two of her three goals have come from strikes outside the box, and another off a cross from Megan Rapinoe, after taking a slight deflection onto her body from S.A.’s keeper. She started the final send off game versus Mexico, not playing spectacularly. Then again, no one did.
She’s shown that she can score goals, but so can most of the 23-player squad, which is why they were chosen by Ellis. But what makes Mewis so valuable? Injuries.
Will There Be Casualties?
Make no mistake, there will be injuries in the World Cup. The U.S. start off with games against Thailand and Chile, the 34th and 39th ranked squads by FIFA, respectively. The Americans, of course, are the first-ranked team in the world.
The U.S. will play faster and smarter than both Thailand and Chile, forcing them to play very physically. Both teams will foul the Americans in droves. Hopefully, no one will be sidelined after these games. But let’s be realistic.
In Ellis’ favored 4-3-3, Lindsay Horan, Rose Lavelle and Julie Ertz look to start in the midfield. That should make any fan of football drool. The problem is, Horan isn’t fit. She hurt her quad a few months ago and only returned to training with her club – Portland Thorns FC – on May 7.
She was named to the bench but didn’t see action against South Africa, and only played the first half against New Zealand. Mewis came on for her to start the second 45’. Lavelle, on the other hand, is constantly hurt.
As Kim McCauley of SBNation (who, by the way has the best @ on Twitter, @lgbtqfc) put it, “There’s no one in the USWNT who’s more exciting to watch with the ball at her feet than Rose Lavelle. Unfortunately, she’s on the physio table more often than she’s on the field.”
Finally, Julie Ertz won’t stop bleeding from her face. She apparently doesn’t know how to take her foot off the gas and go less than 100 percent, which is great to see. But, what happens when US go 3-0 up on Thailand and Ertz is still going full speed into tackles and 50/50 balls?
Door of Opportunity
Mewis will get her shot at the World Cup. She fits perfectly into Ellis’ tactics, sliding in behind the forwards towards the top of the 18 yard box. And when she has the ball at her feet, this happens:
Should anything happen to Rose Lavelle and Lindsay Horan, the USWNT will still be in a position to lift the trophy with Mewis in the midfield.
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