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USWNT Summer Series preview: get to know the competition

Courtesy of U.S. Soccer WNT

In preparation for this summer’s Olympics, the United States national team (USNT) will suit up for the first time since earning a clean sheet against France in April of 2021. The top FIFA-ranked Americans will host Portugal (no.29), Nigeria (no.38) and Jamaica (no.51) in Texas beginning Thursday. 

For this set of international friendlies, Nigeria and the USNT will face each opponent once and the remaining teams will play two games. 

Similar to the structure of the Olympics, all teams will have only two full days of rest between games. 

The USNT, Nigeria, Jamaica and Portugal have called up 23 players to their provisional rosters but only 18 will be named to each game day team sheet. 

United States

Manager: Vlatko Andonovski 

Arguably, Andonovski’s picks for this camp were conservative―only two players weren’t called up to the previous USNT meeting: 

IN: Adrianna Franch (GK)

OUT: Casey Murphy (GK)

IN: Andi Sullivan (MF)

OUT: Julie Ertz (MF)

Julie Ertz is out with a right MCL sprain she sustained at the beginning of the National Women’s Soccer League’s (NWSL) 2021 season. 

Tobin Heath returns to camp but will not make any in-competition appearances while she works herself back to full fitness from a knee injury.

Ertz and Heath are recovering well and Andonovski is hopeful that both will be healthy for the team’s Send-off Series come early July.

Players to watch  

Catarina Macario (MF)

  • At just 21-years-old, the two-time MAC Hermann Winner has already solidified herself as a regular starter for Olympique Lyonnais in France’s D1 
  • With her creativity and attacking ability, Macario can score from just about anywhere

Adrianna Franch (GK)

  • A.D Franch is called into camp for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in 2020
  • Franch will look to add to her four international appearances and make her case to be Alyssa Naeher’s backup keeper in Tokyo

Nigeria

Manager: Randy Waldrum 

At the 2015 FIFA World Cup, the Super Falcons were knocked out at the group stage―where they lost to the U.S―but reached the round of 16 at the tournament in 2019.

Nigeria has won 11 out of the 13 continental championships ever played―far more than their male counterparts. 

Nigeria will look to build confidence ahead of the qualifying games for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.  

Players to watch  

Asisat Oshoala (FW)

  • First African woman to win a UEFA Champions League (2020/21)
  • 29 goals for her country and 33 goals in as many appearances for FC Barcelona

Rasheedat Ajibade (F)

  • Nigeria Football Federation’s 2018 Young Football Player of the Year
  • Currently plays alongside international footballing legends Amanda Sampedro (Spain) and Toni Duggan (England) at Atlético Madrid

Jamaica

Manager: Hue Menzies

In 2019, Jamaica became the first Caribbean nation to ever appear in a FIFA World Cup ―at which their lone goal was scored by Havana Salaun.

It’s been over a year since the Reggae Girlz last played a competitive match― their most recent game was in Feb. 2020 when they outscored Saint Kitts and Nevis seven to zero.

Unfortunately, the team will be without their Captain and top goal scorer Khadija Shaw. Ranked higher than Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan on ESPN’s list of top women’s footballers, Shaw has reportedly asked time off to recover from an outstanding season with FC Girondins de Bordeaux in France. 

Players to watch  

Drew Spence (MF)

  • Previously played internationally for England
  • Won the 2020/21 FA Women’s Super League for the second consecutive time with Chelsea F.C
  • 2020/21 UEFA Champions League runner-up

Sydney Schneider (GK)

  • In a 2018 meeting with the USNT, Schneider faced 17 shots on goal and only conceded six 
  • Jamaica’s first-choice goalkeeper at the 2019 FIFA World Cup 
  • Drafted 29th overall by the Washington Spirit in the 2021 NWSL College Draft

Portugal 

Manager: Francisco Neto 

In April, Portugal’s tie with Russia prevented them from qualifying for the 2022 UEFA European Championship (Euros). 

The team has never reached the Euros nor a World Cup but A Selecção das Quinas are on the up having achieved their highest FIFA ranking (30th) in 2021. 

Domestically, the Portuguese football federation has made significant investments―top clubs like Sporting CP, S.L Benfica and SC Braga have all founded women’s teams in recent years. 

Players to watch 

Jéssica Silva (F)

  • Silva has represented her country since 2011
  • Signed a two-year deal with Kansas City (KC) after spending two seasons with Olympique Lyonnais
  •  “She is a very creative and often flamboyant one-versus-one player,” said KC Head Coach Huw Williams

Carole Costa (D)

  • One of Portugal’s most capped players―126 international appearances
  • Member of the Benfica team that won the 2020-2021 Campeonato Nacional Feminino

Additional notes

While the U.S faces non-Olympic bound competition in the Summer Series and their upcoming send-off matches, fellow Olympic Group G members Australia and Sweden are set to play each other on June 15th.

With the omission of fresh faces along with playing lower-ranked teams in the lead-up to the Olympics, questions arise of whether or not the USA is setting itself up for Olympic success.  

Still, the performances of many USNT players in the Summer Series will make or break their 2021 Olympic dreams. 

“The players that we chose for the most recent roster are the ones that we’re focusing the most on at this moment,” said Andonovski. “But nothing is closed until the [Olympic roster] is chosen.”

2021 Summer Series schedule (all times EST)

Jamaica vs. Nigeria: June 10 @ 5:30 p.m.

USA vs. Portugal: June 10 @ 8:30 p.m. on FS1

Portugal vs. Nigeria: June 13 @ 7 p.m.

USA vs. Jamaica: June 13 @ 10 p.m. on FS1

USA vs. Nigeria: June 16 @ 9 p.m. on ESPN2

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