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USWNT face New Zealand in must-win Olympic match

Colorado Rush’s Lindsey Horan looks to earn her 100th cap for the United States.

SOCCER: JUL 05 Women’s - USA v Mexico Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) — Summer Olympics gold medal favorites —face-off with New Zealand from Saitama, Japan, in a critical game. For viewers intending to watch the match live, kick-off is scheduled for 5:30 a.m. MT.

Both teams are coming off of opening day losses. New Zealand lost to Group G rival Australia, 2-1, while the United States was stunned by a very strong-willed Sweden side, 3-0.

The Lady Yanks are aiming to win their 5th Olympic gold medal after being crowned champions of the recent Women’s World Cup Tournament. The team must now bear down and beat a capable New Zealand team, then take on an even stronger Australia. Only four of the 12 in the tournament face being sent home in the opening group stages.

Per U.S. Soccer, the top two finishers in each group plus the two best third-place teams advance to the quarterfinals. Should teams be level on points and the end of group play, the first tiebreaker is superior goal difference followed by most total goals scored. The winner of Group G will meet a third-place team from Group E or F in the quarterfinal. The second-place finisher in Group G will face the first-place team from Group F, while the third-place team in Group G could meet the first-place team from Group E to open the knockout round.

The proverbial game ball is at Team USA’s feet to advance to the quarterfinals, or they’ll have to pack up and head to Tokyo International Airport for a long flight stateside.

“Obviously, we put ourselves in a big hole, but we’re the only one that can get ourselves out of it,” Andonovski told reporters Friday during his press conference. “It’s not going to be easy. We have to get other results in the next two games, but the fact that there’s still a chance – I know this team is not going to give up.” He added, ”We have to turn our focus to the next game, and we have to win the game.”

In the 2008 Summer Games in China, the USWNT also lost their opening match to Norway. They regrouped and went on a winning streak that ultimately earned the talent team a gold medal.

During Colorado’s Lindsey Horan’s meeting with the press, she spoke specifically about the team’s attitude and mentality during their match with Sweden. “It felt like it was missing and we couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was, but that’s never the case for the U.S. Women’s National Team. Any member that’s played for this team knows that. No matter what, no matter the tactics, no matter the technical execution, the mentality’s always there,” she said.

“That game left us pissed off. That’s the reality of it,” she added. “When I look at it, I think Sweden had a great game plan and they executed it very well. They came out and wanted to win.”

The fearless midfielder started in the number 6 position and did not have the best of games. ”I think every single player in the field feels like they could’ve done more or they could’ve changed certain mistakes they made or certain decisions they made. That falls on every single one of us.”

Andonovski and staff have been working over their game plan and will soon decide if a tweak in his lineup, playing formation, or both to improve his team’s chances of defeating the Football Ferns. One possibility is to start a healthy Julie Ertz in the 6 position as the defensive midfielder and move Horan to her preferred flank attacking position. Should Horan make the pitch, it will be her 100th cap for the U.S. The other possibility is Andonovski may outright sit Horan in favor of a Samantha Mewis-Ertz-Rose Lavelle midfield.

New Zealand is making its fourth consecutive appearance at the Olympics and has qualified for every world championship beginning with the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. They are ranked 22nd in FIFA’s table. They are led by head coach Tom Sermanni. Sermanni managed the USWNT from January 2013 to April 2014 and left with a respectable 18-2-4 record. He coached Julie Ertz, Kristie and Samantha Mewis, Christen Press, Crystal Dunn, and Lindsey Horan.

The two teams last played in the spring of 2019 in St. Louis The U.S. dominated New Zealand and won 5-0.

USWNT 2021 OLYMPIC WOMEN’S SOCCER ROSTER BY POSITION (CAPS/GOALS)

GOALKEEPERS (3): 22-Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 5), 18-Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC; 6), 1-Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 74)

DEFENDERS (7): 17-Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 72/0), 12-Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 35/1), 2-Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 117/24), 20-Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars; 34/0), 5-Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 141/2), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 189/0), 14-Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 56/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): 8-Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 111/20), 9-Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 99/22), 16-Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 57/14), 19-Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 7/1), 6-Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 27/4), 3-Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage; 78/23)

FORWARDS (6): 7-Tobin Heath (Unattached; 172/35), 10-Carli Lloyd (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 307/126), 13-Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 181/110), 11-Christen Press (Unattached; 150/63), 15-Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 180/59), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 37/11)