Toronto, Canada - An almost completely new lineup will be taking the field tomorrow when the USA Women play South Africa during the third round of the Women's Nations Cup. The Eagles will replay South Africa on Saturday, August 13 for third place, regardless of tomorrow's outcome.
"The down side of losing to Canada is that we don't get a second crack at England," USA coach Pete Steinberg said of Friday's 35-17 loss, "but the up side is that we play South Africa twice. We stated six weeks ago while at the Olympic Training Center [in Chula Vista, CA] that our goal was to play our best game of game on the last day of the Nations Cup. We're still focused on that goal, and now we'll get a better look at some of the inexperienced players at the international level."
If the USA had beaten Canada last Friday, then the Springboks game would have likely been the only opportunity for many newer players to see significant game time. And while one assume that the players would like to place as high as possible, playing South Africa twice means that rest may be better distributed throughout the squad.
"We only have a squad of 25 [Stacy Bridges has yet to be cleared], so having people play four full games isn't feasible," Steinberg said of the 12-day tournament. "We're doing our best to consider player welfare when making selections."
Only four players are slated to make their third start of the tournament - Shaina Turley, Sadie Anderson, Samantha Pankey and Kate Daley, who will be captaining the team. The eightman will be supported by vice captain Vanesha McGee on the wing.
"I don't feel that we're ready for the traditional role of one captain," Steinberg said after naming his third captain in as many matches. "We have a very inexperienced squad, and in looking at the lineup, she's the best player to lead us. She plays a critical position, has great game understanding and a positive attitude."
As inexperienced as the team is, Steinberg isn't worried about any potential weak spots on the field, as long as the players play as hard as they've been training the last couple of days.
"We would like to bring back the defensive intensity - at the tackle area and in launching our defense - we had against England," Steinberg said. "We've had an extra day of rest, have kept them off their feets, and are bringing in some fresh legs.
"We also struggled with our scrum," Steinberg added. "It's an area where we're undersized, and Canada was able to pressure us. Having a stable platform will be important for us. We also need to continue improving our lineouts, especially with this new lineup, build connection in the backline, and in particular execute passes."
For several of the players poised to take the pitch tomorrow, the game against South Africa could be their first win as an Eagle.
"The team's in good shape mentality wise," Steinberg said. "We reviewed the Canada game, and there were parts where we performed better than we did against England. Our lineouts were significantly better; there was much more attacking play; our continuity was excellent. The team's in good spirits.
"This is a new coaching staff, a new environment, and that can be quite challenging," Steinberg said. "So we're trying to help players meet their goals, the development of that culture is still progressing."
The USA and South Africa kick off at 4:30 PDT tomorrow.
1. Sarah Chobot
2. Lisa Butts
3. Libby Berg
4. Lauren Daly
5. Shaina Turley
6. Kitt Wagner
7. Laura Miller
8. Kate Daley (c)
9. Carrie White
10. Sadie Anderson
11. Kaelene Lundstrum
12. Sylvia Braaten
13. Rebecca Brafman
14. Vanesha McGee
15. Samantha Pankey
16. Devin Keller
17. Jamie Burke
18. Stacy Baker
19. Lynelle Kugler
20. Kim Magrini
21. Amy Daniels
22. Katie Dowty