The United States are heading to Germany for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, but not before they get a proper send-off. They couldn't find a much better stage an opponent, as they face off against fellow World Cup qualifiers Mexico, who upset them in Cancun at the Gold Cup, at beautiful Red Bull Arena, arguably the best soccer-specific venue in the United States.
Pia Sundhage has set her full roster for the World Cup, naming Kelley O'Hara as Lindsay Tarpley's replacement. Tarpley tore her ACL in a friendly match in the build-up to the world cup. O'Hara is similarly talented but is a completely different type of player; one who relies on her pace more than anything. Since she's just recently been named to the squad, Sundhage will likely want to give her some time out on the wing.
O'Hara will be a substitute, though, as Sundhage will likely stick with her first choice lineup, getting them one more game together before heading off to Germany. Her lineup seems fairly set in stone at this point, but there are a few areas of concerned. Central midfielder Carli Lloyd and striker Amy Rodriguez are much maligned by the fans, but both have actually been playing better than their rivals for playing time as of late. The most interesting playing time battle has to be between Becky Sauerbrunn and Amy LePeilbet; a battle which LePeilbet will certainly win.
There was a time not too long ago when LePeilbet was widely considered to be the best defender in the world, but her form and fitness has slipped considerably, while Sauerbrunn is top notch in both departments. At the very least, Sundhage knows that she has quite possibly the best central defender in the World Cup who isn't first choice for her team, giving the United States a great backup should anyone fall victim to injury or a serious dip in form.
Another defensive spot is very much up for grabs, as Sundhage has to choose between the raw talent of Ali Riley and the experience of Heather Mitts at right back. Mitts' form in a United States shirt has not been fantastic as of late, but conventional wisdom is that experience is the tiebreaker in a competition like the World Cup.
Mexico are a young, up and coming team that, like their male counterparts, like to play the ball on the ground. The United States are a team with competent technical players, but this should still make for an interesting stylistic matchup. The biggest advantage the United States will have is on set pieces, where the aerial prowess of players like Abby Wambach and Shannon Boxx will be difficult for Mexico to deal with.
The big, strong, and experienced United States national team takes on a young, technical Mexico team that's full of flair from Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon. Give it a look to see what you can expect from both teams in the Women's World Cup later this month.