Skip to content

Australia offers another test for USWNT’s developing defense

Oct 18, 2013, 2:40 PM EDT

Tom Sermanni AP

Tom Sermanni has a strong grasp on what his lineup looks like across about two-thirds of the field, but the back four for the United States women’s national team is still a work in progress.

Sunday’s game against Australia (1:30 p.m. ET on NBC) – the team he last managed – is the first of four matches in three weeks for the U.S. head coach to continue to get an idea of what his defensive unit might look like as the stretch-run to the 2015 World Cup approaches.

“It’s probably the area of the team that is most unknown,” Sermanni said. “I think from midfield up, it’s a fairly established group in a sense.

“But defensively, when you are looking at probably a more set, cohesive starting group, that is probably still kind of up in the air. At the moment, I don’t think we’ve got a ‘this is our best back four,’ ‘this is our most settled back four.’”

Despite personnel uncertainty in the back – and to be clear, there’s none in goal, where Hope Solo is still one of the world’s best – the United States has only given up eight goals in 12 games this year. They are 10-0-2 in 2013 and riding a 35-game unbeaten streak and 73-game home unbeaten streak.

[MORE: US women bringing full-strength roster for Sunday's friendly]

The most set of the defensive line is captain Christie Rampone, who is still the team’s best defender at 38 years old, but whose status for the 2015 World Cup remains to be seen. She is typically paired with Rachel Buehler, though Becky Sauerbrunn’s emergence in the National Women’s Soccer League as the leader of FC Kansas City’s impressively cohesive defense has boosted her stock considerably.

And soon to be 26-year-old Whitney Engen continues her long wait for more minutes. She’s been the U.S. center back of the future for a few years, but still only has nine appearances for her country. Confidence should be high for Engen, though, who just anchored Liverpool to its first-ever first division league title in England and immediately joined Swedish club Tyresö for their UEFA Champions League campaign (a successful one thus far, beating PSG in the Round of 32).

source:

Crystal Dunn, 21, has emerged as one of the United States’ best options at fullback. (AP Photo)

But the recurring question for the past few years has been on the outside. Ali Krieger was arguably the best right back in the 2011 World Cup (Japan’s Yukari Kinga the other), but left back has been a revolving door. Amy LePeilbet admirably filled in there in 2011 and then at right back during the 2012 Olympics (for an injured Krieger) despite being more comfortable centrally. LePeilbet had surgery early this year on her left ACL and Sermanni expects her to join the team for its December training camp, along with forward Amy Rodriguez, who missed the entire calendar year due to pregnancy, giving birth to her son in August.

Kelley O’Hara has been the first-choice left back since early 2012 after converting from forward, but she hasn’t played since early July and underwent right ankle surgery in August that will keep her out until early 2014.

So who does Sermanni turn to at left back, with Krieger looking healthy and ready to own the right back role once more? Crystal Dunn, the 21-year-old North Carolina Tar Heel who won the 2012 MAC Hermann Trophy as college soccer’s best player, is the most likely answer.

Dunn plays in an attacking role for UNC, leading the No. 4 ranked team with 11 goals and 25 pts. But Dunn plays as a fullback for the United States. She has played there in all seven career senior team appearances, all during this “very impressive” year, as Sermanni calls it.

“I don’t have any concerns about her playing the different positions and then coming in and playing the fullback for us, because she is such a focused player,” he said. “As a young player, I don’t think I’ve come across anyone who has got a focus like she has, so I don’t have any concerns with her coming in and switching from an attacking midfield player to a fullback.”

Dunn is only in camp for Sunday’s game against Australia and will miss the Oct. 27 and Oct. 30 matches against New Zealand. It seems unlikely she would be called in for the No. 10 game against Brazil on NBC, since that is the same day as the ACC Championship.

Also in camp just for Sunday are defenders Leigh Ann Robinson and Stephanie Cox. Robinson earned her first cap last month against Mexico and Cox is back in the fold having last played for the U.S. in May 2012. Cox had her first child on April 7 and played in four games late in the season for Seattle Reign FC.

Latest Posts
  1. Paderborn keeps scoring ridiculous goals, keeps winning

    Oct 21, 2014, 12:10 AM EDT

    Paderborn Getty Images

    Paderborn hasn’t stopped winning or scoring insane goals, if you haven’t noticed.

  2. VIDEO: Men In Blazer – Balotelli, own goals, and Mark Consuelos

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:29 PM EDT

    Men In Blazers

    Actor Mark Consuelos made his way to the Crap Part of Soho while the Men In Blazers tried to keep the ball out of their own net.

  3. Champions League Tuesday preview: City in Russia, Roma hosts Bayern

    Oct 20, 2014, 10:47 PM EDT

    Bayern AP

    Bayern Munich have a very difficult match on the road in Italy, while other matchups in Spain, Russia, and Germany will all prove enjoyable.

  4. USWNT 6-0 Haiti: Wambach braces US in 90 minute demolition of Haiti

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:28 PM EDT

    Lloyd AP

    Meghan Klingenberg bagged a laser beam for her first US goal and Abby Wambach grabbed two as the Americans will move on to the semifinals.

  5. Manchester Police arrest man for flying drone over City vs Spurs match

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT

    Photo credit: Greater Manchester Police Photo credit: Greater Manchester Police

    Manchester Police confirmed a man was arrested after flying a drone over the match that entertained 45,000 people.

  6. Americans Abroad: Johannsson, Cameron, Boyd all return

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Cameron AP

    Aron Johannsson bagged a penalty in his return from groin surgery, while Juan Agudelo continues to search for a new club.

  7. Adel Taarabt jabs back after Redknapp’s scathing comments

    Oct 20, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Taarabt Getty Images

    Adel Taarabt says the harsh words from manager Harry Redknapp are not only untrue but damaging as a professional.

  8. New York Cosmos reportedly sign Spanish legend Raul, will play and coach

    Oct 20, 2014, 6:16 PM EDT

    Raul Getty Images

    The New York Cosmos completed a massive signing, beating out a few of his former clubs to nab the Spanish legend as a player and coach.

  9. Report: It will be Colombia – not Croatia – for USMNT in November

    Oct 20, 2014, 5:36 PM EDT

    Jurgen Klinsmann

    Despite a solid confirmation from Croatia, the friendly will reportedly not be happening.

  10. WATCH: West Brom 2-2 Manchester United: Blind earns draw for Red Devils on road

    Oct 20, 2014, 4:56 PM EDT

    WestBromUnited Getty Images

    Manchester United came from behind twice but still must settle for a disappointing result away from home.

  11. Teen Lazio striker totals his Lamborghini in Rome

    Oct 20, 2014, 4:35 PM EDT

    Lambo

    19-year-old Lazio striker Keita Balde Diao somehow walked away from what looks to be a major accident. His Lamborghini, however, didn’t.

  12. UEFA fines Wales and Galatasary, spare Arsenal

    Oct 20, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Arsenal FC v Galatasaray AS - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Unruly fans will cost Wales and Galatasary as UEFA continues to crack down on off-the-pitch incidents.

  13. 2014 Homeless World Cup kicks off in Chile

    Oct 20, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT

    FBL-CHILE-HOMELESS WORLD CUP Getty Images

    The yearly tournament organizes five-a-side matches for people that are homeless or living in extreme poverty.

  14. Transfer talk: Multiple PL clubs interested in Andre Ayew

    Oct 20, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-GUINGAMP-MARSEILLE Getty Images

    Liverpool, Everton and Swansea City are just a few of the Premier League clubs reportedly looking to sign the Marseille winger.

  15. Lukas Podolski: ‘Hell will freeze over’ before playing for Spurs

    Oct 20, 2014, 12:37 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-FACUP-ARSENAL-HULL Getty Images

    With transfer rumors swirling, the Arsenal forward made it clear that he is #AlwaysAGunner.

  16. South Africa rules out hosting Africa Cup of Nations

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT

    FBL-AFR2015-SUD-RSA Getty Images

    Amidst the Ebola outbreak, South Africa has ruled out hosting the continent’s premier tournament should Morocco back out.

  17. Indian player dies after goal celebration

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Sad news out of India as a young player died after injuring his spinal cord during a celebration.

  18. CSKA Moscow striker says Manchester City are ‘very weak’

    Oct 20, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-CSKA-BAYERN Getty Images

    Ahmed Musa stirred the pot ahead of his club’s Champions League clash this week, calling out City’s form.

  19. Premier League Preview: West Brom vs. Manchester United

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-WEST BROM Getty Images

    Watch the Baggies take on Manchester United today, live at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

  20. Petr Cech is giving Thibaut Courtois safety tips

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:40 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    The Chelsea backup is teaching his replacement how to stay safe from head injuries, which have affected both keepers.

Featured video

Week 8: Saturday PL recap