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U.S. set to face Mexico Thursday at Rentschler Field in Olympic tuneup – The Collinsville Press
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U.S. set to face Mexico Thursday at Rentschler Field in Olympic tuneup

Connecticut native Allyson Naeher will start in goal for the United States women’s national team Thursday against Mexico at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

The U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team has two more games left before they head to Japan for the pandemic-delayed 2020 Olympics in Japan beginning later this month. The Americans will face Mexico Thursday night in the first of two games in five days at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.

Game one begins at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday with the second game beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday, July 5. Thursday night’s game will be broadcast on FS1 and TUDN.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski has two additional contests to iron any wrinkles before the United States begins the Olympic tournament on July 21 in Tokyo against Sweden.

Andonvski announced an 18-player roster earlier this month that includes seven first-time Olympians and 17 World Cup champions. Stratford native Alyssa Naeher will be back in goal for the United States. She was in net when the Americans won the 2019 World Cup title.

The United States will be facing a Mexico team that won’t be going to the Olympics but are ranked No. 25 in the world.

“I think now the focus is on fixing the small details,” said defender Tierna Davidson, 22, the youngest player on the team. “As a group we’ve largely been together. But now knowing the 18 (players in the Olympic team) plus the four (potential substitutes) we can focus on the little tiny minute details that will help win us game in tight situations. That is what this team is all about perfecting every single thing we can. That is what the focus will be the next few weeks leading up to the (Olympic) Games.”

Andonvski is also looking for his team to be challenged. “(Mexico) has great individual (players with) the ability to break teams down on an individual basis. They’re very organized and they are super competitive especially when we play each other. This is the type of game we want to play leading up to the Olympics,” he said.

The USA heads into the match against Mexico in the midst of a 42-game unbeaten streak, one shy of matching the second-longest such streak in program history. In the American’s most recent actin, they won three bouts against Portugal, Jamaica and Nigeria in Texas.

Each team will be allowed six substitutes during the matches, in addition to two possible concussion substitutes in line with the established protocols.

The final five matches for the United States before the Olympics have been and will be played in the summer heat and humidity of Texas and in Connecticut, giving the USA some to acclimate to the heat and humidity before heading into what is sure to be a grind of an Olympic tournament played in heart of the Japanese summer.

Seventeen players on the Olympic team played on the 2019 World Cup championship team. Kristie Mewis is the only player to make the Olympic team who was not on the 2019 World Cup roster.

Two players – forwards Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath – make their fourth Olympic team.  Lloyd, who will turn 39 on July 16 just before the Olympics begin, is the oldest-ever U.S. women’s soccer Olympian.

Defenders Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara as well as forwards Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, will playing in their third Olympics. They each played in the 2012 and 2016 Games.

Defender Crystal Dunn, midfielders Lindsey Horan and Julie Ertz, forward Christen Press and Naeher make their second Olympic teams. The seven first-time Olympians are defenders Davidson, Abby Dahlkemper and Emily Sonnett, midfielders Samantha Mewis, Kristie Mewis and Rose Lavelle and goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.

So far this year, 11 players have scored the USA’s 29 goals led by Rapinoe with seven, Samantha Mewis with four and ALex Morgan and Christen Press with three each. Lindsey Horan (2), Kristie Mewis (2), Margaret Purce (2), Carli Lloyd (2), Lynn Williams (2), Rose Lavelle and Catarina Macario have also scored this season.

This will be the first match against the United States for Mexico’s new manager Monica Vergara, who took over in January. She is the first female head coach in Mexico women’s national team history.

Vergara, 38, was a long-time member of the Mexican National Team. She was a member of Mexico’s 1999 Women’s World Cup team as a 16-year-old, playing against Germany and Italy. She played against the USA prior to the World Cup on March 28, 1999, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

NOTES: The U.S squad will partner with the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association to run a free Coach for Community event at the Bloomfield Soccer Club on Saturday. VISA has donated tickets for both matches. Players from the Hartford Lions Soccer Academy will attend Thursday’s game while Hugh Russell, owner of local Caribbean restaurant The Russell – one of the few Black-owned restaurants in downtown Hartford – and guests will attend on  Sunday, July 5.

COVID-19 vaccines will be available on-site at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field from Griffin Health. A free $15 concession voucher will be given to anyone vaccinated at the venue before either match.

Monday’s game begins at 5 p.m. at Rentschler Field and that game will be broadcast on ESPN and TUDN.

2020 U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team roster by position:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
DEFENDERS (6): Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City/ENG), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage)
FORWARDS (5): Tobin Heath (Unattached), Carli Lloyd (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Unattached), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 35 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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