PREVIEW: USA VS. NED
KENYA BROWN - Sunday, July 7, 2019
The US Women's National Team are one game away from defending their Women's World Cup crown, but they will have be in for a fight as they face an upstart Netherlands team in Lyon.
The Americans will be looking to make history on Sunday as they attempt to become the second country to retain their title. And based on their performances in the past games, odds are very high that they pull it off.
Head coach Jill Ellis will be looking to put out a full strength team at Parc Olympique Lyonnais and they will be coming into the game in excellent form.
The biggest question ahead of the game is the health status of both Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle. The co-captain was rested for the team's semifinal game against England due a hamstring strain. Meanwhile, Lavelle played in that game, but was pulled in the 65th minute with a hamstring injury of her own. However, with a title to play it appears both players will play a role for the team whether it be in the starting eleven or coming off the bench.
While the attack has been hitting on all cylinders during the tournament, questions concerning the US back-line will be raised again as England exposed them on several occasions in their game. If not for the help of the video assistant referee and a huge save from goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, we could be talking about a totally different final.
The US will come into the game the heavy favorites, but they will not be overlooking the Dutch, who are not pushovers by any measure.
The reigning European champions may not have thr goal scoring punch like their American counterparts, but they enter every game composed and they don't get frazzled.
It can be said that the Dutch had a pretty favorable draw entering the World Cup as they blazed through Group E unbeaten and then knocked off 2011 champions Japan in the Round of 16 followed by a shutout of Italy. And thanks to Sweden, who they dumped out in the semifinals, they avoided a tougher opponent in Germany.
This game will ultimately be decided in the midfield as the Netherlands will rely on the trio of Jackie Groenen, Danielle van de Dong and Sherida Spitse. Their game plan revolves around them, so if the US wants any chance of taking the upper hand in the game they will have to frustrate Spitse, who pulls the strings for the team, while making sure to win battles against Groenen and van de Donk.
While the battle in the midfield may determine which team wins this game, the Netherlands' back-line should not be overlooked. They have only conceded three goals throughout the tournament, showing that they are not easy to breakdown. The US will have to rely on smart play to find the weaknesses and challenge goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.
This maybe the first World Cup final for the Dutch, but they won't let nerves get to them. The USWNT has to make sure that they play a smart game keep the back-line tight and dominate in the midfield if they have any chance of winning.
Hopefully, it turns out to be an exciting final and one that many Americans will want to see this group of women once again show they are the most dominant team in the game right now.