U.S. heads to World Cup with players struggling for game time
STAMFORD, Conn. — The U.S. women’s soccer team is in Brazil this week for two World Cup qualifiers against Canada — and it’s a situation coach Jill Ellis is trying desperately to avoid.
With the U.S. missing two of the game’s best young players, a team built on youth, inexperience and a growing amount of senior talent, Ellis’ job — one that hasn’t been made any easier by the fact the U.S. has suffered through three losses in its past 12 games — is made slightly harder with the news that forward Allie Long won’t play in Brazil in the first match. Long, a top rookie, was suspended for a yellow card and red card accumulation in U.S. play in the past two games.
Ellis is trying to balance youth-laden talent with veterans who have earned their spot on the roster through past victories, while also trying to manage the national team’s senior talent while not losing too much youth, both in terms of age and ability.
“This is their time to shine,” Ellis said. “I told the players that I’m going to give them my full support as a coach. When they’re playing together, playing the way they can, they’re one step ahead. I’m excited about that.”
The U.S. women’s goal during the game against Canada, before the team fell to a 3-0 aggregate defeat at the U.S. Soccer Federation Women’s World Cup Qualifying Challenge in November, was to get into the game. The U.S. women, who face Canada in the final group stage match in Salvador, Brazil, on Jan. 4, haven’t shown the ability to do so.
The Americans have lost twice in the past two games, getting outscored 5-0 in the first half and losing despite its best players making