The U.S. women's team is back for on more time in 2016. They will face Romania on Sunday (coverage starts at 9 p.m. ET on FS1) and it will be their final match of the year. Coach Jill Ellis again has called in a roster full of young, newer players and you can expect a lot more experimenting with the lineups and style of play. (You can also expect a lot of goals because, well, Romania is not very good.)
Will the USWNT keep trying to master a three-back – and can they do it?
Well, we saw how well switching to a three-back worked for the men's team this weekend, but the women have been working on the defensive formation for the past few games. There is clearly more work to be done, however. Although the USWNT walloped Romania on Thursday, 8-1, it has to be concerning for Jill Ellis how easily the defense got stretched and pulled out of shape, particularly on Romania's goal, where goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris panicked.
The 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 formations that Ellis have been tinkering with seem to be a direct response to Sweden's successful bunker-and-counter strategy that stymied the midfield and knocked the USWNT out of the Olympics. But defensively, the three-back looks a long way off from being ready to take on the Swedens of the world.
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Will other goalkeepers get a look and who will replace Hope Solo?
Speaking of Ashlyn Harris' time in net on Thursday, she wasn't tested very much against Romania, but her stock still managed to take a hit in the game with the goal she conceded. She got caught way out of goal on a counter and came out of the box without eliminating the threat, rather than giving Casey Short the chance to recover. That's the thing about Harris, she can pull off some thrilling heroics, but it's a high risk/high reward situation because she can be error prone too.
Since Hope Solo was kicked off the team, there have been some pretty big cleats to fill and it doesn't seem that an option nearly as good as Solo has emerged. Ellis could give Alyssa Naeher another look, as she looks poised to take Solo's No. 1 spot. But maybe it's time to see what Adrianna Franch has got. She was not the choice starter for the Portland Thorns this season, but she did play six matches, allowing just three goals. She does not yet have a USWNT cap, despite a few call-ups.
Can the USWNT find a new striker pair?
Carli Lloyd is not in this camp because she was (understandably) busy getting married, but in the USWNT's previous camp, she was paired as a striker up top. Alex Morgan is back for this camp after taking the last one off and, even more than Lloyd, she's the one who figures to be a fixture in any striker partnership. Ellis and fans won't soon forget the days of the ultra-productive Abby Wambach-Alex Morgan duo and probably wouldn't mind seeing something similar again.
So is there a young forward in camp that can have the right chemistry with Morgan and complement her game? Lynn Williams, with her speed and hold-up play seems like a good option. Kealia Ohai, also fast but more comfortable drifting out wide, is another up-and-coming candidate.
Where should Christen Press play and should she start?
If there's one thing we know about Christen Press, it's that she is a goal-scorer, plain and simple. She scored a hat trick on Thursday against Romania and, yes, it was Romania, whose defense was a jumbled mess, but she still showed her nose for goal. The question is, where does she belong?
Press' proponents would say she needs to be a center striker, up top and closest to goal. But Ellis, presumably seeing better options there, has often put Press a little bit deeper or on the wing. Will those spots be good fits for her in the right formation? Should she be the one to pair with Morgan on a regular basis up top? She's a talented, technical player that somehow hasn't staked a claim on a starting spot in a specific role, but maybe she can start to do that.
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Will Kristen Edmonds get her first cap and, if so, can she make her mark?
While there was a slew of new call-ups in the last couple camps, the initial roster for this camp featured only one first-time call-up: Kristen Edmonds of the Orlando Pride. (Defender Emily Menges of the Portland Thorns, another newcomer was a late scratch.) Edmonds had a great season for the Pride, mainly filling a playmaker role, after not even being a regular started for the WNY Flash last season.
She's an intriguing option because of the versatility she brings to the table. She's a midfielder, but she has been used and is able to slot in as a forward or a defender. Ellis has brought in some first-time call-ups recently and asked them to play roles that weren't their primary ones on the club level, so it will be interesting to see where Edmonds goes, if Ellis gives her minutes.