FOOTBALL Preview: No. 1-ranked U.S. women to be tested by no. 6 Australia Thursday

Dangerous (left to right): U.S. strikers Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe

The U.S. women’s National Team is off to a shaky start in 2019, starting with a 3-1 shellacking in France and compiling a 2-1-2 record. Normally an offensive juggernaut, the American squad has scored seven goals, the same number as its opponents.

After a month of training since its last game vs. Brazil in the SheBelieves Cup, the U.S. women will take the field against one of its most obstinate opponents – Australia – on Thursday in the high altitude of Commerce City, Colorado. Kickoff is at 9 p.m. Eastern time and the game will be shown on FS1.

Australia gave the U.S. its last loss on American soil with a 1-0 win during the 2017 Tournament of Nations, and a 1-1 tie last year in the Tournament of Nations.

In last year’s game in East Hartford, Connecticut, Chloe Logarzo gave the Matildas a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute and it looked like they would hold on for a 1-0 victory. Even though the U.S. had an 18-8 edge in shots, the Aussies committed 16 fouls and pushed the U.S. around the field for most of the game. Lindsey Horan scored the tying goal in the 90th minute and the U.S. mounted more attacks in stoppage time, but the game ended at 1-1.

Both teams have most of their starters back on the roster from last season (Australia has all 11) and both squads are expected to contend for the Women’s World Cup title in France in June.

All-time, the U.S. has a 25-1-3 edge over Australia, but that doesn’t mean much now. In the four games the sides played from 2012-15, the U.S. averaged almost four goals a game. It has scored one goal in the last 180 minutes against the Matildas over the last two years.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis said of the Aussies, “We’ve had some highly competitive games with them over the past few years and we love playing Australia as they push us to be better on both ends of the field.

“There aren’t very many unknowns between our teams and they have quite a few players playing in the NWSL, but while there is a familiarity, they will also have new leadership, and that may or may not influence a change in personnel or style. What remains important is our preparedness for being able to read and manage any situations our opponents will present.”

Ellis did make one call-up of interest, with 34-year-old defender Ali Krieger returning to the national team for the first time since April of 2017. A member of the U.S. World Cup teams in 2011 and 2015, she might be able to help a spotty U.S. defense at right back.