The U.S. women's national team returns to action on Sunday against Switzerland (2 p.m. ET, FS1) and coach Jill Ellis is looking to experiment a lot. She has brought in 11 uncapped players and has already started testing players out in new roles. She made some major changes when the USWNT faced Switzerland midweek, and now with a second friendly against Switzerland this weekend, here are some things to look out for.
AFP/Getty ImagesGustavo Andrade
After Lynn Williams' strong debut, will Kealia Ohai get her shot?
Lynn Williams' USWNT debut on Wednesday could not have gone any better for the NWSL Golden Boot winner. Less than a minute after coming into the game, Williams scored brilliantly by pouncing on a defender mistake and finishing 1v1 against the goalkeeper. It's what she has done for the WNY Flash all this year, pushing her club to win the NWSL championship.
But Kealia Ohai, who finished with the same goal total as Williams this season at 11 goals will be eager for her shot. Ohai, pictured left, did not make the bench of Wednesday's friendly against Switzerland, and it could be that Ellis is trying to spread the new players out between games. (After all, there are 11 new uncapped players on the roster, which is a lot.) Ohai and Williams are somewhat similar players, so it will be worth watching how Ohai does if Ellis does give her time on Sunday.
Getty ImagesRich Barnes
Could Allie Long earn a spot as a defender?
For the Portland Thorns, Long has perhaps shined the most as a No. 10 when she can make things happen in the attack, but she's shown off her defensive chops as a box-to-box midfielder and holding midfielder, too. Still, when Ellis asked Long to play a centerback role on Wednesday in an experimental 3-5-2 formation, it was a surprise.
Could it be the start of a career as a defender for Long? It's easy to see why Ellis thought Long could do the job: She is a physical, disruptive player and she has excellent passing range to help play out the back. Long did well in the role and, given a lack of depth at the centerback position, there's no reason the 29-year-old couldn't earn the spot if Ellis continues to play her there. If Ellis starts Long there again on Sunday, it could signal something.
Getty Images Getty Images
Is Jill Ellis considering a formation shift?
The USWNT came out in a surprise 3-5-2 formation in their first match against Switzerland on Wednesday. Now, they face Switzerland in a second friendly, and the question is whether Ellis is interested in the 3-5-2 formation itself, or whether she is using it to learn something about the new players she brought in.
The USWNT has mostly played in a 4-2-3-1 with Alex Morgan alone up top, Carli Lloyd tucked underneath her, and then a double-pivot of two box-to-box midfielders behind who take turns attacking and holding. But Ellis could look at changing that, perhaps by adding a dedicated defensive midfielder or by putting a playmaker-type player in front of the midfield.
Could Lindsey Horan or Crystal Dunn be a No. 10 going forward?
Horan is a tall, physical tough player who caught Ellis' eye as a striker in France, but she's typically been asked to play a central midfield role in a double pivot. Often paired next to either Long or Morgan Brian, it's a role that involves switching between defending and attacking. But in the 3-5-2 the USWNT used on Wednesday, Horan mostly sat at the top of a midfield triangle as an attacking No. 10 playmaker. It's a move that plays to Horan's strengths as a player with a nose for goal, and she could be the much-needed metronome in the midfield.
Then again, Crystal Dunn did well when she was asked to drop back from a forward spot to the No. 10 position when Horan was subbed out. Dunn has played all over the field for club and country, but the No. 10 role was a new one for her. Still, her quick decision-making and relentless work ethic was at least some of the difference as the USWNT scored four goals in the second half. She helped move the ball around and assisted on a Tobin Heath goal.
Whether it's Horan or Dunn, it will be interesting to see if Ellis continues look at other players in a No. 10 role. Carli Lloyd has normally occupied that space, but she does it whilst playing as a withdrawn forward who does whatever she wants. Which brings us to…
USA TODAY SportsChristopher Hanewinckel
Is Carli Lloyd really going to be a forward now?
Lloyd has always been listed as a midfielder and occupied a spot in the midfield, but that's not really how she plays. She's less of an attacking midfielder and more of a withdrawn forward, but even calling her a withdrawn forward isn't quite accurate — her job is not really to play with her back to goal and focus on connecting with the other striker (usually Alex Morgan). She just roams around and tries to score goals, basically. She's incredibly effective at it, but calling a spade a spade and a forward a forward probably doesn't hurt in building an attacking system.
Assuming the 3-5-2 formation doesn't stick, could the USWNT look at a 4-4-2 where Lloyd pushes a bit higher up the field and works more directly with Alex Morgan? As a lone striker, Morgan tends to get isolated, something even she has admitted, but a pairing with Lloyd could potentially work as well as Morgan's tandem with Abby Wambach did years ago.