Dick’s Sporting Goods Park — During the pre-training press conference at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday afternoon, USWNT head coach Jill Ellis explained how it was premature to say if local midfielder Lindsey Horan would be among the final 18 for the match against Japan at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Thursday night (7:00 p.m. kickoff, MT).
“We’ll see how she looks today, but as of now we will make that decision tomorrow,” Ellis said. “Essentially, I’ve got 24 players in camp and six will have to be in the stands, so until I share that with the team I wouldn’t share that publicly.”
Less than 30 minutes later, Ellis held the restraining straps while Horan stressed her movements with runs and side-steps, a case of a head coach literally making a hands-on evaluation. The 22-year-old from Golden has been nursing an injury recently while helping the Portland Thorns dominate the NWSL. Unlike #10 (Carli Lloyd), Horan was training to make the cut. Lloyd worked out on the fringes with the team on Wednesday but is not part of roster selection for this first rematch between the teams since Lloyd registered her historic hat trick 11 months ago.
“I feel great,” the former Colorado Rush midfielder said, “it hasn’t been a long camp. It’s really exciting to see how we do against a great team like Japan, and everyone is fighting for a spot and working hard here. So it’s going to be a great game to watch.”
“I’ve seen the youth teams play,” Ellis explained for scouting Japan, “and they all have some very similar qualities. They’re fantastic in terms of technique, possession, movement, and organization. And that doesn’t matter if you’re playing their 17s or their full team. When it comes to set pieces and nuances, obviously with a new coach you can’t predict that. Overall, Japan’s players are steeped in tradition, and I think the expectation from the young player to the senior player, in terms of comfort level on the ball and really making it about the sum being greater than the individual…. I would say that this is instilled with this team no matter who is in charge.”
Ellis went on to note how the former U-20 women’s coach Asako Takakura became the first woman picked as head coach of Japan. “I just think it is fantastic that a female has been given this great responsibility for the Japanese team, and I know she will do extremely well.”