PREVIEW: USWNT facing off against Nigeria on Saturday in Kansas City
After qualifying for both the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Summer Olympics at the 2022 Concacaf W Championship this summer in Monterrey Mexico, the U.S. Women’s National Team returns to the field on Saturday, taking on Nigeria on September 3 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
The match kicks off at 1:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. CT with broadcast coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET / Noon CT on FOX.After the conclusion of the match in Kansas City, the USA will close out its two-game set with Nigeria in Washington, D.C. in a match presented by Allstate. The teams will meet again at Audi Field, home of the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, on Tuesday, September 6, at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit; 1), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 8), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 83)
DEFENDERS (6): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 14/0), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 17/0), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC; 6/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 19/0), Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current; 3/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 207/0)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0), Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville; 0/0), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 116/25), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC; 5/1), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 78/21), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 44/7), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 13/3), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 32/3)
FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 11/4), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC; 196/118), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 78/24), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 19/4), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 192/62), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 21/8)
Twenty-one of the 23 players on this roster a part of the roster that helped the USA win the 2022 Concacaf W Championship in Mexico. Defender Kelley O’Hara and forward Trinity Rodman, who both featured in the USA’s successful five-game run in Monterrey, were also initially named to the roster but O’Hara was later ruled out of camp due to a lingering hip injury while Rodman withdrew due to a family commitment. They were replaced by defender Hailie Mace and midfielder Savannah DeMelo. Defender Crystal Dunn, who gave birth to her son Marcel on May 20, is also in camp for training as she continues her return to fitness but will not feature in the matches.
INSIDE THE SERIES: USA VS. NIGERIA
The USA and Nigeria are set to meet for the second time in two years, though this will be just the seventh matchup all-time between the nations and only the second such meeting in a friendly match. The first five matchups between the USA and Nigeria all came at world championship events, with four meetings at the Women’s World Cup (1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015) and one at the Olympics (2000).
Apart from a 7-1 win in the first ever meeting between the teams – which came in group play at the 1999 Women’s World Cup – and a 5-0 victory for the Americans in the 2003 World Cup group stage, the majority of the meetings between these two countries have been tightly contested. The USA defeated Nigeria, 3-1, at the 2000 Olympics and registered a pair of 1-0 group stage wins over the Super Falcons at both the 2007 and 2015 World Cups.
The most recent matchup between the two sides came on June 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas, as the teams met in the first-ever soccer match at Austin’s FC’s spectacular Q2 Stadium. Christen Press scored the first-ever goal in that venue and Lynn Williams added a score off a counterattack for the 2-0 win for the Americans. The USA out-shot Nigeria 15-7 in that match, though only six of the 23 players on this roster saw action in that 2021 match against the Super Falcons.
The USWNT has a perfect record against African opposition, defeating Nigeria six times in six meetings and South Africa twice in two games. The USWNT has kept clean sheets in each of its last six games against CAF foes.
KANSAS CITY CONNECTIONS
The USWNT has several Kansas City connections on its roster for the match at Children’s Mercy Park with no one more intertwined with the city than head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who has been a Kansas City resident for 18 years. Andonovski first came to Kansas City to play professional indoor soccer with the Kansas City Comets and also five years as head coach of FC Kansas City (2013-2017), who he led to back-to-back NWSL Championships in 2014 and 2015. Two players on this USA roster played for Andonovski on FC Kanas City in team captain Becky Sauerbrunn and midfielder Kristie Mewis. Mace, who is looking to earn her first caps with the USWNT since 2018, presently plays for the Kansas City Current who are in the midst of a 12-game unbeaten streak.
ALL EYES ON AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
With the opening match of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup less than a year away, 22 teams have already qualified for the tournament, which has been expanded to now feature 32 teams, up from 24 in both 2015 and 2019. The nations that have already punched their tickets Down Under are co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, China PR, Philippines and Vietnam from Asia, and Sweden, France, Denmark and Spain from Europe, the USA, Costa Rica, Canada and Jamaica from Concacaf, Zambia, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa from Africa and Brazil, Colombia and Argentina from South America. This will be the first Women’s World Cup at any level the Philippines and Vietnam, who qualified through the AFC Asian Women’s Cup, as well as Morocco and Zambia, who qualified through the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations. Still to be filled are seven remaining slots from Europe and three slots from the 10-team playoff tournament that will feature two teams from Asia (Chinese Taipei and Thailand), two from Africa (Cameroon and Senegal), two from Concacaf (Haiti and Panama), two from South America (Chile and Paraguay), one from Oceania (Papua New Guinea) and one from Europe.
The USA has qualified for its ninth consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup, having played in every tournament since the competition’s inception in 1991 and winning a record four titles. Brazil, Japan, Sweden and Nigeria have also qualified for a ninth Women’s World Cup and German and Norway can join that group as well if they successfully qualify for Australia/New Zealand.
The draw for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be held on October 22 in Auckland as all the competing nations will find out their first round schedules and path through the tournament.
The USA also qualified for an eighth consecutive Summer Olympics by virtue of its 1-0 win over Canada in the Concacaf W Championship final. The USA, Sweden and Brazil are the only nations to appear in every edition of the Olympic Women’s Football Tournament since its inception in 1996.
BACK IN THE U-S-A
After playing all five games of the 2022 Concacaf W Championship in Monterrey, Mexico, the USA returns to action on home soil with a 69-game home unbeaten streak, which includes 62 wins and seven draws and has now spanned more than five years. During this home unbeaten streak, the USA has outscored its opponents 260-28, including a 127-2 margin during its last 30 matches at home, all of which have been wins save for the 0-0 draws with Czech Republic on Feb. 17 and with Korea Republic on Oct. 21, 2021. This is the second-longest home unbeaten streak in USWNT history, the longest lasting 104 games from December of 2004 to December of 2015.
The USA also enters the two-game series against Nigeria on an 11-game win streak, dating back to its second match of the year against New Zealand. During the 11-game winning streak, the USA has outscored its opposition 46-1 and has kept eight consecutive clean sheets. The current eight-game shutout streak is the team’s longest since keeping eight consecutive clean sheets to open 2020 while the current 11-game win streak is the USA’s second-longest win streak in Andonovski’s tenure.
SEPTEMBER AT HOME, OCTOBER ABROAD
With less than a year until the start of the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, Saturday’s matchup against the Super Falcons kicks off a fall of high-profile matches for the USA. Following the games against Nigeria, who has also qualified for the World Cup 2023, the top-ranked Americans will travel across the pond for an October 7 meeting against recently crowned European Champions England at historic Wembley Stadium.
England won the 2022 UEFA Women’s EURO in historic fashion at Wembley Stadium on July 31, defeating Germany, 2-1, in overtime on a goal from forward Chloe Kelly in front of a record-setting crowd of 87,192 fans. Tickets for USA-England, as many as 80,000 of them, sold out in less than a day and the crowd will be the largest to ever watch the USWNT in a friendly match. The USA-England match is subject to England securing its FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification during the September international window, which they are very likely to do. England just needs to earn a point away against nearest group rivals Austria on Saturday, September 3 or, failing that, a victory at home over Luxembourg on Tuesday, September 6, to confirm their spot in Australia and New Zealand next summer. This will be the USWNT’s first visit to Wembley Stadium since the gold medal match at the 2012 Olympic Games, a 2-1 victory for the USA over Japan, and the first-ever meeting between the United States and England Women’s National Teams at London’s green cathedral of soccer
USA ROSTER NOTES
- The most capped player on this roster is Becky Sauerbrunn at 207, followed by Alex Morgan (196), Megan Rapinoe (192) and Lindsey Horan (116) while the least capped players are Casey Murphy (8), Naomi Girma (6), Taylor Kornieck (5), Hailie Mace (3), Aubrey Kingsbury (1) and Sam Coffey and Savannah DeMelo, both of whom have yet to make their USWNT debuts.
- Fourteen players on the USA roster for the Nigeria friendlies have 21 caps or fewer: Sophia Smith, Midge Purce, Sofia Huerta, Emily Fox, Alana Cook, Ashley Sanchez, Murphy, Rodman, Girma, Kornieck, Mace, Kingsbury, Coffey and DeMelo.
- Becky Sauerbrunn is the oldest player on the roster (37 years old) while Sophia Smith is the youngest (22 years old).
- Through 12 games in 2022, the USWNT has had 24 goals scored by players under the age of 24. Over the course of 2019, 2020 and 2021 – a total of 57 games – the USWNT had a combined total of 10 goals scored by players under the age of 24.
- Morgan is the top scorer on the roster with 118 career goals. Rapinoe has 62 and Lindsey Horan has 25. Pugh has 24 goals for the USWNT while Rose Lavelle has 21.
- Fifteen different players have scored for the USWNT so far in 2022 – Sophia Smith (7), Mallory Pugh (6), Catarina Macario (5), Rose Lavelle (3), Kristie Mewis (3), Alex Morgan (3), Ashley Sanchez (3), Ashley Hatch (2), Trinity Rodman (2), Midge Purce (2), Kelley O’Hara (1), Jaelin Howell (1), Andi Sullivan (1), Taylor Kornieck (1) and Emily Sonnett (1).
- The USA’s other five goals this year came via own goals, the most ever in a calendar year in program history with three on Feb. 20 vs. New Zealand, and one each on April 12 vs. Uzbekistan and June 28 vs. Colombia.
- Twelve different players have registered an assist for the USWNT so far in 2022, led by Pugh with seven. Lavelle (6 assists), Sanchez (3), Huerta (2), O’Hara (2) and Alana Cook (2) also have multiple assists on the year while Purce, Hatch, Naomi Girma, Macario, Sullivan and Megan Rapinoe have one each.
- In total, 19 different players have been directly involved in goals for the USWNT this year, tallying either a goal or an assist.
- Defender Alana Cook leads the USA in total minutes played so far in 2022 with 836 minutes of action, followed by midfielder Andi Sullivan (769) and forwards Sophia Smith (722) and Mallory Pugh (715).
- Smith has started a team-high 11 games in 2022 and is one of four players to have appeared in 11 of the USA’s 12 games so far in 2022. Pugh, Sanchez and Kristie Mewis are the others.
- Andonovski is 38-2-6 in 46 games and went unbeaten (22-0-1) in his first 23 matches in charge of the USWNT, setting a record for the best start for a head coach in USWNT history.
- Fifteen different players have earned their first cap under Andonovski, eight of whom are on this roster.
- Nine of the 12 NWSL clubs are represented on this roster, along with 2021-22 UEFA Women’s Champions League winners Olympique Lyon. Four players are from the Washington Spirit and four are from OL Reign.
IN FOCUS: NIGERIA | FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
Current FIFA World Ranking: 46
CAF Ranking: 1
FIFA Country Code: NGA
2023 World Cup Qualifying: Qualified through WAFCON (4th-place finish)
World Cup appearances: 8 (1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019)
Best World Cup Finish: Quarterfinals (1999)
Record vs. USA: 0-6-0
Last Meeting vs. USA: June 16, 2021 (USA won, 2-0 in Austin, Texas)
Coach: Randy Waldrum (USA)
NIGERIA WOMEN’S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION
Goalkeepers (2): 16-Chiamaka Nnadozie (Paris F.C, FRA), 1-Christy Ohiaeriaku (Edo Queens F.C.)
Defenders (7): 3-Osinachi Ohale (Deportivo Alaves, ESP), 8-Rofiat Adenike Imuran (Rivers Angels F.C.), 11-Akudo Ogbonna (Edo Queens F.C.), 17-Nicole Payne (West Virginia University, USA), 4-Glory Ogbonna (ALG Spor, TUR), 12-Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash, USA), 5-Blessing Demehin (Rivers Angel F.C.)
Midfielders (6): 7-Toni Payne (Sevilla F.C, ESP), 13-Christy Ucheibe (SL Benfica, POR), 10-Amanda Mbadi (Atasehir Belediyespor, TUR), 18-Onyi Echegini (Florida State University, USA), 19-Deborah Abiodun (Rivers Angel F.C.), 20-Esther Onyenezide (FC Robo Queens)
Forwards (5): 6-Uchenna Kanu (Tigres UANL, MEX), 15-Rasheedat Ajibade (Atletico Madrid, ESP), 14-Vivian Ikechukwu (FC Gintra, LTU), 2-Gift Monday (FC Robo Queens F.C), 9-Ifeoma Onumonu (NJ/NY Gotham FC, USA)
NIGERIA ROSTER NOTES
- Nigeria has players playing eight different countries around the world and has 12 players playing professionally outside of Nigeria and two in college in the USA. Just six players on the roster are currently playing in Nigeria.
- Nigeria has called up three players who were a part of its team at the recently completed FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica in defenders Deborah Abiodun and Blessing Demehin, and midfielder Esther Onyenezide. Nigeria won Group C in Costa Rica but fell to the Netherlands, 2-0, in the quarterfinals. Nigeria beat France, South Korea and Canada in group play. Against Canada, Onyenezide scored twice from the penalty spot and against South Korea she bagged the game winner.
- Nigeria earned its berth to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup by advancing to the semifinals of the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations that was held in Morocco. In the semifinal, Nigeria fell in penalty kicks to the hosts in front of 45,562 fans in Rabat after a 1-1 tie during regulation and overtime. Nigeria finished that game with nine players after receiving two red cards.
- The Super Falcons then fell in the Third-Place Match, 1-0, to Zambia to finish an uncharacteristic fourth in the WAFCON, but that is also indicative of the growth of the women’s game on the African continent. Zambia’s goal was actually a Nigeria own goal by Chiamaka Nnadozie.
- Nigeria is by far the most successful Women’s National Team in Africa, having won the continental title 11 times and appeared in every Women’s World Cup ever contested as well as three Olympic Games, but recently their supremacy has been challenged as several African countries have made great strides on the field, most notably South Africa, Ghana and Cameroon, but now by fellow World Cup qualifiers Morocco and Zambia.
- Super Falcons’ head coach Randy Waldrum is also currently the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, which has gotten off to a fine start to the 2022 college season. He was also the head coach for the Houston Dash in the NWSL from 2014-2017 and for the Trinidad & Tobago Women’s National Team from 2014-2016. He got the job in May of 2020 after turning it down a few years before. Waldrum also led the University of Notre Dame to two NCAA titles during his stint in South Bend, Indiana from 1999-2013 and did a short sting at the U.S. Under-23 WNT head coach.
- One of Waldrum’s assistant coaches is Lauren Gregg, who was one of Tony DiCicco’s two assistant coaches during the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup and was the interim head coach for the USWNT for three games in 2000. She was also an assistant coach for the USA at the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991.
- Midfielder Toni Payne, a native of Alabama, played at Duke at represented the USA at the Youth national Team levels. In fact, she was a part of the U.S. team that won the U.S. team that won the 2012 CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship, scoring two goals with two assists in that tournament and then played in all three games at the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, scoring against Gambia
- Payne’s younger sister Nicole, who attends West Virginia, is also on the squad and also represented the USA at various age levels, although never in a CONCACAF or FIFA tournament.
- NJ/NY Gotham FC forward Ifeoma Onumonu hails from Southern California and played at UC Berkeley. She has also played for the Boston Breakers, Portland Thorns and Reign FC in the NWSL. Onumonu previously played for U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski when they were both part of the Seattle Reign organization.
- Michelle Alozie hails from Apple Valley, Calif. and played college soccer at Tennessee. She plays for the Houston Dash and has played in six NWSL games so far this season and scored her second goal on Aug. 27 against the Washington Spirit to equalizer in stoppage time.
- Midfielder Onyi Echegini, who hails from London, England, plays at perennial college power Florida State after transferring from Mississippi State where she played 42 games three seasons and scored 11 goals with six assists. She played youth soccer in the Arsenal FC system.