Well, the U.S. got through the hard part of the group stage. Thanks to goalkeeper Hope Solo, the Americans got past France on Saturday, despite being out-played for much of the first half, and they bounced back after halftime for a tight 1-0 win.
Now, the Americans have won two for two and are in prime position to win Group G with either a win or draw in their final group game against Colombia. Here's a look at their final match of the group stage:
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USWNT roster notes: In their last match, coach Jill Ellis did very little squad rotation and it looks like Allie Long, recently a bubble player, has moved up on Ellis' depth chart after two straight starts ahead of Lindsay Horan. Centerback Whitney Engen made a surprise start against France due to a minor injury to Julie Johnston only hours before kick off. Mallory Pugh was replaced by Crystal Dunn due to a knock Pugh took in the first match.
Ellis told reporters on Monday that both Johnston and Pugh are available for Tuesday's match, but she did not elaborate any further. With no injuries and no cards, it appears the entire roster is available.
Megan Rapinoe is doubtful to start again, but the Americans should put away their match against Colombia early, opening the door for a late Rapinoe substitution to get her some minutes and build back her form. If Rapinoe does play, it will be her first appearance for club or country since December.
USWNT projected XI:
The question is, will this be the game where Ellis finally rests some starters? The stakes aren't super high for this match -- the Americans should win relatively easily and even a draw would be fine. So, this may be the perfect opportunity to save some players so they can be rested for the all-important knockout stages. Asked about some of the players who have seen many minutes yet, Ellis told reporters on Monday, "We didn't bring them here to ride the pine."
But Ellis is a coach who prefers consistency and if we look to her lineups in the World Cup last summer, she tended to stick with the same group for bunches of games in a row until other factors, like cards and injuries, changed the dynamic of the roster.
What we do know is that the U.S. should come out again in their favored 4-2-3-1 and it's a good bet that if Johnston is 100 percent, she will go back into the lineup so the preferred back four can start again. Carli Lloyd will roam as a deep-lying forward and will likely play every minute of this tournament. Where Ellis could get creative is along the flanks or swap out some pieces in the double-pivot that plays behind Lloyd in the midfield.
We think Ellis will favor consistency, but she has a perfectly good forward on the bench in Christen Press while Tobin Heath has played in back-to-back matches. We could see Heath rested while Press slots to the right wing position and a player like Pugh is swapped over to the left flank where Heath normally plays.
What to know about Colombia: It's hard to forget the USWNT's meeting against Colombia in the first stage of the knockout round at the Women's World Cup last summer. Though Colombia didn't have much going in the attack, they made it very difficult for the Americans to do much in the attack either. The match was looking destined a deadlock and penalty kicks until a red card to Colombian goalkeeper Catalina Perez turned the match on its head. The Americans eventually won 2-0.
Colombia are capable of playing a disruptive role against the U.S., but they may not have their best roster on Tuesday. Coach Fabian Taborda told reporters on Monday that one of their best attackers, Lady Andrade, along with midfielder Carolina Arias, were "exhausted" and likely wouldn't be available. That came via live on-site translators, so it's hard to be sure what he meant and it's hard to know if there isn't any gamesmanship in his comments. He also said forward Catalina Usme has a knee injury.
On top of it, Colombia haven't done so well in the tournament so far. France thrashed them 4-0 last week, which signals that Colombia are having a very difficult than last summer's World Cup -- in Canada, Colombia shocked the world by beating France 2-0 in the group stage. Colombia lost again in their second match of this Olympics, falling 1-0 to New Zealand.
Projected outcome: The Americans are in relatively good form right now -- much better form than they were at this point during last summer's World Cup. Meanwhile, Colombia aren't in good form and they certainly look worse than they did last year.
The U.S. will win this easily and win Group G, giving them a favorable path to the quarterfinal round. We project a comfortable 3-0 score.
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