The United States women's national team is set to play Paraguay on Tuesday at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio -- the home of FC Cincinnati. The match is the second friendly against the Latin American side after the USWNT defeated the Paraguayans 9-0 in their first friendly last week. The match will also be the second game in a farewell to Carli Lloyd after the longtime USWNT veteran announced her retirement at the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympics. The USWNT will have two more friendlies in October before Lloyd concludes her professional playing career with her NWSL club side, NJ/NY Gotham FC, this fall.
Let's take a look at some storylines ahead of the Tuesday's match.
Extended minutes for NWSL players
Andi Sullivan, Mallory Pugh, and Sophia Smith were called into national team camp after several Tokyo Olympians were unavailable for the Paraguay friendlies. All three players have been putting together impressive seasons with their respective NWSL clubs, and are in the playoff push as the regular season winds down. Sullivan and Pugh earned starts during the first fixture against Paraguay, with Pugh recording three assists, and Sullivan scoring two goals and collecting one assist.
"I thought Andi [Sullivan] was very good, positionally did very well, obviously impacted the game with the two goals that she scored," said USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski during a Monday press conference. "In the upcoming games, she's going to have a similar role. The only difference will be, from her, we're gonna ask her to be just a little bit more aggressive with with her passing. And look for a little more penetrating passes, but in the future, we expect a lot from Andi. I think she's a great player. She's in good form, and she's performing well."
Smith came off the bench during the second half and had limited minutes during the first match against Paraguay. The second-year Portland Thorns FC forward is a versatile option along the top line and could possibly get a starting role during USWNT's second fixture. For now the 21-year-old striker is looking to keep developing both at the club and national team level.
"My main focus was just to go out and be confident and be myself. I'm really happy with where I've been, in regards to my play in the league, and I just wanted to continue that and try to contribute to the team in any way that I possibly could, Smith said.
"I think just playing confident and playing free and not overthinking everything is key for me. It's a big stage, it's the biggest stage that I can play on. I think with that comes a lot of a lot of pressure, but to kind of use that pressure, and be excited about it, and control what I can control I think is huge. It's always an honor to get minutes with this team and to represent this country."
Making the most of lopsided games
The games against Paraguay are exhibition games scheduled as a post-Olympic tour, with little push for drastic change or World Cup perspectives, often leading to out-matched opponents and lopsided scorelines. But Andonovski is still utilizing the games as an opportunity for the team and players to try and improve in small area.
"Even in this upcoming game, even in the previous game, we made it more about us. Basically all about us and focus on things that we want to do, change, tweak, or implement -- and less about your opponent. It's going to be the same way in the upcoming game, Andonovski said of preparing for the next friendly against Paraguay.
"There are certain tests that the players are asked to fulfill, and at that point it may seem like they're forcing certain things, but that will be because we're gonna ask them to try different things. We're gonna ask them to try somethings and use that as an opportunity to get better."
- Date: Tuesday, Sept. 21 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
- Location: TQL Stadium -- Cincinnati, Ohio
- TV: FS1 | Live stream: fuboTV (try for free)
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USWNT vs. Paraguay prediction
It'll be another lopsided scoreline, but maybe Paraguay will also build on their previous match and get scored on just a little less. Pick: USWNT 8, Paraguay 0.
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