WAKE UP: Our USWNT XIs vs Vietnam

Here's our 'What We Want' and 'Ok Fine, Vlatko' USWNT starting XIs

Thanks to y’all we’re gonna be twenty toes down in Australia and New Zealand for the 2023 World Cup! The WAKE UP edition of our newsletter will be your go-to spot for updates, analysis, recaps, travel chat, and anything else we drop.

First of all, we’re hype as hell for this World Cup! It’s going to be a bonkers feast of terrific football. We’ll definitely be paying attention to much more than the USWNT, but they are the home team and it’s not every World Cup that a team gets to go for a never ever been done before third straight.

We’d love if the squad was flying and looking good and had structure and all that, but Vlatko suffers from bouts of unseriousness. Since what we want to see in the opening match against Vietnam will likely be vastly different than what we’ll get, we’re dropping two XIs: a ‘What I Want XI’ and ‘Ok Fine, Vlatko XI’.

Let’s get to it…

André - What I Want XI

GK: Aubrey Kingsbury
Def: Emily Fox, Naomi Girma, Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta
Mid: Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn, Andi Sullivan
Attack: Lynn Williams, Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman

Off top, naturally, and extremely on brand, Crystal Dunn is in my midfield. She’s a midfielder, Emily Fox is a left back, 4-piece puzzles are literally more complicated. Anyway, I also want Sophia Smith central, it’s where she’s best, plus she has that connection with Dunn from playing together with the Thorns.

Andonovski apparently told the commentary team ahead of the Wales sendoff match that he thinks Lynn Williams is ‘the best 15-minute player’ (more on that later in the week), which seems a silly and odd misapplication of everything Williams can do throughout a match. In my squad, she starts.

The biggest surprise in my XI is probably Kingsbury. To me, she’s been the most consistent keeper in the NWSL over the past three years but hasn’t been given the respect for it from the national team. Giving her the first start of the tournament would be a way to make up for that.

Courtney - What I Want XI

GK: Alyssa Naeher
Def: Emily Fox, Naomi Girma, Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta
Mid: Lindsey Horan, Andi Sullivan, Crystal Dunn
Attack: Lynn Williams, Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman

We’re going to want Naeher’s World Cup experience leading a young and untested World Cup back line. Dunn in the midfield needs no introduction, and we saw the Williams-Smith-Rodman front three combine against Wales and it was delicious destruction.

If Ertz and Lavelle were truly healthy, we would be switching formations but I’ll save why we should do that for another newsletter.

André - Ok Fine, Vlatko XI

GK: Alyssa Naeher
Def: Crystal Dunn, Naomi Girma, Alana Cook, Emily Fox
Mid: Lindsey Horan, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Sanchez
Attack: Trinity Rodman, Alex Morgan, Sophia Smith

The backline seems set so no points for me there. Midfield is tough because Vlatko and USSF have a weird (read: bad) way of handling and/or communicating about injuries.

Clearly Rose Lavelle’s ‘minor’ thing from the April friendlies wasn’t all that minor since we haven’t seen her since. Even if she’s ready for minutes, I don’t see a need to start her in this match when he also brought an abundance of #10s. Sanchez has been Lavelle’s backup under Andonovski, so she gets the start.

Alex Morgan returns to the center of the attack, even though I don’t think a target forward works best with the type of attackers that’ll flank her. It’ll very likely be fine and possibly even look good against Vietnam, but the rest of the tournament, eh.

And of course, Alyssa Naeher is back in goal.

Courtney - Ok Fine, Vlatko XI

GK: Alyssa Naeher
Def: Crystal Dunn, Naomi Girma, Alana Cook, Kelley O’Hara
Mid: Lindsey Horan, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Sanchez
Attack: Sophia Smith, Alex Morgan, Lynn Williams

I feel like we agree on most of these things, but O’Hara’s over Fox because I don’t think Vlatko is going to put out a starting XI with only 3 or 4 players with World Cup experience. Horan has experience but for the majority of 2019 in France she was starting on the bench, so Vlatko is going to put O’Hara in for that veteran presence. I don’t think it’s the worst idea when you have two young center backs starting in Cook and Girma.

I don’t think Thompson is going to get the nod for a start straightaway at a World Cup, and it was tough choosing between Williams and Rodman but I think Vlatko trusts Williams more.

I expect more of a “classic” USWNT performance this game (if that even means something), but last match we saw Dunn and Fox pinch in at times instead of getting high and wide. We’ll likely see a return to that inverted movement in the second half of the game when Fox comes in for O’Hara, but to begin the match Dunn and O’Hara will get high and wide like traditional fullbacks, like Vlatko likes.


– Courtney & André

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