The U.S. Women's National Team (USWNT) has clinched three World Cup victories since the women's tournament started in 1991. They are the winningest team in Women's World Cup history and they're out to defend their title as champions. Their first match of the 2019 tournament, hosted by France, pits them against Thailand.
The last time the U.S. women faced Thailand was fresh off their disappointing performance in the 2016 Rio Olympics where Sweden knocked them out in the quarterfinals. That September, in a friendly, the U.S. decimated the Thai team a whopping 9-0. Seventeen of the 18 players on the U.S. team in that match are on the current team. Here are some highlights if you have 10 minutes to spare and like watching Carli Lloyd score hat tricks:
Today's match, which starts at 12:00 p.m. PST, is expected to go pretty similarly, especially with a team as stacked with attacking power like the U.S. However, this Thailand team did win the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) championship in 2018. I'll be liveblogging the game as it goes so tune in! But first, I'm gonna point out some players who I'll be paying attention to this match. Maybe that will be helpful. Maybe it will be redundant.
Slate has Lindsey Horan, the queen of the midfield, pegged as the most crucial player on the USWNT this time around. Horan consistently wins balls in the air and is critical on both offense and defense.
You've heard of Alex Morgan. A scoring juggernaut, Morgan has scored 28 goals in her last 36 games for the USWNT. Morgan's appearance in the 2015 World Cup victory was stunted due to injury. She's trying to make herself (more of) a household name this go-around and bring home the title two Cups in a row. Let's see if she can.
Megan Rapinoe, notorious around these parts for captaining
Seattle Reign shit I mean Reign FC, is an all-around player. She also followed Colin Kaepernick's example and kneeled during the national anthem in 2016. One time she rented a car from Enterprise while my roommate was working there (if memory serves my roommate correctly it was a BMW). That last one wasn't really related but I wanted to point it out. Rapinoe also holds the title for the latest goal scored in a World Cup. Well, she provided the assist that led to the goal but whatever.
As a former left-back myself, I'll also be watching Crystal Dunn, a defender who doesn't stay tied to her position and makes herself crucial all over the field. She'll attack from anywhere. Definitely read this New York Times piece about her, for the story but also the graphics.
Controversially, Carli Lloyd—you remember her from a couple of paragraphs ago for scoring that hat trick against Thailand—is warming the bench. Lloyd also scored a hat trick in the 2015 final for the win against Japan. But, she had a terrible 2018 club season and, at 36, is the oldest on the team.
The other sub to watch is 21-year-old Mallory Pugh who became the youngest woman to score in the 2016 Olympics at age 18.
There are a ton more players worth mentioning but I feel like I've lost your attention and I've got to get to my watch party (it's hosted by Reign FC at Reinhaus on Capitol Hill!). I'll just throw out one more: Alyssa Naeher is the starting goalkeeper this go around. She's less of a shot-stopper than Hope Solo was but more of a passer and thus, more involved in the game as a whole. She also prefers the Wall Street Journal crossword puzzle to the New York Times crossword puzzle and I find that controversy JUICY.