Women’s Soccer: USA v Romania Preview, Predictions and Picks

Tobin HeathRomania has the torrid task of tackling the U.S. women’s soccer team for the second time in four days at the Stubhub Centre in California on Sunday (9.30pm ET).

USWNT strolled to an emphatic 8-1 triumph in the first match between these two sides on Thursday. Strikes from Christen Press (three), Tobin Heath (pictured), Morgan Brian, Alex Morgan (two) and an own goal in second-half stoppage time from Romania defender Maria Ficzay helped Jill Ellis’ side to victory at the Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

It was an excellent performance from the hosts, who played with intensity and energy from the very first whistle. Team USA had established a two-goal lead before 10 minutes had been played and never allowed the Romanians to establish any sort of rhythm. It is now five straight wins since the disappointing defeat by Sweden in the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer, with the three-time world champions scoring 29 goals against Romania, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Thailand while conceding a mere three  in the last couple of months.

One of the most interesting features of the first encounter between the Americans and the Romanians was the formation in which the USA lined up. Ellis went with a 3-4-3 setup, deploying Allie Long, Casey Short and Becky Sauerbrunn in the three-woman backline. Kealia Ohai and Heath played as wing-backs and spent much of their time in advanced areas due to the minimal attacking threat posed by the opposition. Andi Sullivan and Brian were in the centre of midfield and Crystal Dunn, Lynn Williams and hat-trick hero Press were part of a fluid front three at the top of the pitch.

It would be interesting to know whether Ellis simply wanted to try out another formation that could potentially be used as a plan B in the future, or whether she intends to go forward with the 3-4-3 as the United States’ default shape.

Romania, meanwhile, set themselves up in a 4-4-2 configuration, with Lidia Havristiu, Maria Ficzay, Andreea Corduneanu and Ana Maria Gorea in defence. Captain Ioana Bortan, Raluca Sarghe, Alexandra Lunca and Andreea Voicu played in midfield, with Stefania Vatafu and Laura Rus up front. Mirel Albon and his charges will have been frustrated that they were not able to pose more of a threat on the counter-attack when the ball was turned over in the middle of the park. It was always going to be a difficult task for the visitors when they fell behind early on and spent much of the remainder of the game pinned back inside their own half of the field.

Ellis is likely to ring the changes on Sunday by handing some playing time to those who were denied much of it last time out. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher could replace Ashlyn Harris between the sticks after failing to make it off the bench in San Jose. Morgan, Julie Johnston, Samantha Mewis, Kelley O’Hara, Lindsey Horan and Jessica McDonald will all be hoping to start after coming on as substitutes in the 8-1 win.

Romania boss Albon may well take a similar approach, with Teodora Meluta, Mara Batea, Adina Giurgiu, Mihaela Ciolacu, Loredana Popa, Lindar Kajtar, Beatrice Tarasila and Cristina Carp among those pushing for a start after being left out of the XI at the Avaya Stadium.

Coming to our preview’s betting predictions and picks, it is difficult to look past another convincing United States success on Sunday. The margin of victory may not be quite as large as it was a few days ago, particularly if Ellis moves away from her first-choice starting line-up.

The biggest of the American-facing offshore sportsbooks really do not like publishing odds on women’s international friendly matches, especially with so many possible player options. At time of writing there are no odds from the U.S bookies on this game, but these would be this preview’s betting picks:

  • United States women’s soccer team to win with over 4.5 goals scored in total.
  • Alex Morgan to score at any time.