By Ryan Rosenblatt
It’s here. Finally.
The #TourDeFour is officially set to begin in Reims as the United States makes their run at a fourth star.
We spent a year celebrating victory in Canada and the record third World Cup title, then were shocked by the Olympic implosion, then set things straight with a couple largely strong years in friendlies, but those were just friendlies. Now it’s real. Hell, it’s the realest.
It’s time to prove we are still the queens.
Over the last four years, the rest of the world has gotten better. Much better. And that’s worth hammering home because what we’ve seen before won’t be good enough. The growth of the sport has made it so the old world champion standard has been surpassed by several teams.
To get that fourth star, the U.S. has to be better than it has ever been before. It has to set a new standard.
That starts against a Thailand team that, well … they’re going to be outclassed.
Now, as Australia learned against Italy, being better doesn’t guarantee victory. But we also saw France thrash South Korea, setting a tone and making a statement for the team, the fans and any opponents who might come their way.
This match is about winning, above all else. But it also comes with a chance to reassert dominance and remind everyone that the World Cup still runs through the U.S. And you can bet that mental game – the hype, the confidence and, on the other side, the intimidation – matters.
It also matters to find a rhythm. Jill Ellis has been narrowing down to her starting XI for the better part of 2019. It’s probably Alyssa Naeher in goal, with a back line of Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper and Crystal Dunn, then Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan in the middle behind Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.
With the reps they have gotten together, that group should have some cohesion, but the step up from friendlies to the World Cup is real, no matter the opponent. And they’ll have to find their feet together in France.
But we also saw last World Cup how it takes an entire team to win. When Lauren Holiday was suspended, Morgan Brian came in and revolutionized the midfield. That could be Sam Mewis this time around, while Carli Lloyd and Christen Press are game-changers off the bench, not to mention the many more who will see time and be counted upon.
Winning a World Cup is about a full team. You need to have firepower off the bench, and you’re going to have fatigue from all the matches in one month so rotation will be key. Toss in potential suspensions and maybe even injury, and you need to be good from top to bottom.
Top to bottom is where this team thrives. It’s the deepest team in the world, both on the pitch and in training, where they raise everyone to a higher standard. A standard the U.S. needs to be at in France to reign again. And it’s a standard they can get to.
So let’s kick this one off.
We’ve spent four years waiting for this. We want that fourth star. And it begins with the first match of (hopefully) seven.
It’s #TourDeFour time.