When the U.S. women take the field in Dresden against North Korea in their first 2011 Women's World Cup game on Tuesday, someone is likely to be playing out of position.
USWNT head coach Pia Sundhage has admitted that she's considering one change from her regular team, bringing in Lauren Cheney for Megan Rapinoe. Cheney probably deserves to play, based on her substitute appearances with the team, highlighted by her fantastic winner in the United States' sendoff game against Mexico, but she is not the same player as Rapinoe.
If Cheney plays for the United States and she is the only change, someone is going to play out of position for the United States. Based on her commitment to a 4-4-2 in her time as coach, it seems unlikely that Sundhage would shift away from it so suddenly. This means that, if Rapinoe is indeed dropped, either Cheney or Amy Rodriguez is going to be playing out of position on the wing. Both players are strikers, with Cheney arguably being suited to an attacking midfielder's role as well. Either way, neither is a wide player.
So you think that means a change in formation is on the way? Not so fast. A move to 4-2-3-1 with Cheney in the hole still has Rodriguez out wide, and a move to a 4-3-3 formation would move winger Heather O'Reilly to the center of midfield, where she never plays.
Should Cheney be starting for the USWNT over Rapinoe on merit? Quite possibly. Rapinoe is the team's main set piece taker, and she has been below average in that department over the last year. But is it possible to construct a team that makes sense where Cheney for Rapinoe is the only change? No, not at all. Let's just hope Sundhage knows what she's doing, because on the surface, her announced move doesn't make a lot of sense.