The U.S. Women’s National soccer team kicked off 2020 just how the previous year ended.
Fresh off of winning the 2019 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. breezed through the competition in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament and the SheBelieves Cup.
However, just like everything else in the world, the coronavirus pandemic slowed things down and forcing any future competition for the remainder of the year into doubt.
After a small camp in October, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski gathered the national team in the Netherlands this week for a week-long camp, culminating with Friday’s friendly against the host country (9:30 a.m., ESPN2).
“Everyone is just really excited to have an international match,” Andonovski said. “That it’s against the Netherlands makes it even better and more challenging.
“We had to get back on the field for a real game at some point, so it might as well be against one of the best teams in the world. We have a lot of work to do before the Olympics and facing a really talented Dutch team will give us a good look at where we are at the end of this very unusual year.”
The teams are certainly familiar with each other. The U.S. defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in the finals of the 2019 FIFA World Cup and has only lost once in eight meetings. The U.S. has won the last seven meetings by a combined score of 24-2.
“We’re meeting for the first time against a team we played in the World Cup final and it’s been what, a year and a couple of months since then and its been seven-eight months since we played our last game as a team,” U.S. defender Kelly O’Hara said. “I’m excited for it, so we’ll see how it goes.”
The roster features 14 players from the World Cup championship team, including Rose Lavelle and Samantha Mewis (Manchester City), Tobin Heath and Christen Press (Manchester United), Alex Morgan (Tottenham) and Emily Sonnett (Goteborg FC), who all opted out of the NWSL this season and went to play in Europe.
“We know that we’re nowhere close to our best from the tactical perspective, nowhere close to our best in our physical preparation. Not even technical and mental preparation,” Andonovski said. “Obviously we’ve been off for so many months, first game after a while. Some players haven’t touched the ball for almost a year and some players haven’t touched the ball for six months. We have literally only a few players that are 90 minutes ready.”
The domestic season for players that remained in the NWSL was split. The Challenge Cup consisted of eight teams getting at least four games and the Fall Series, saw all nine teams getting in at least four games.
“If you would have asked me a few months ago, I never would have expected to be playing in England,” Press said. “I’m very happy with that decision and I’m enjoying my time with Manchester United. I think it is a fantastic environment and I enjoy playing in such a competitive team.
“They’re attracting international talent at the moment, not just the best English players, but from all over the world and that’s really important for me in this moment in my career. I personally feel like I have a long way to go to get back into my flow and my expectations for the type of player that I want to be, but I feel very confident in the choice that I made to go.”
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