On March 1st when the second annual #SheBelieves Cup kicks off, four teams will be competing for bragging rights and an unusual-looking trophy. Those teams include world number one U.S., Germany (second), France (third) and England coming in at fifth. It will be the first time the United States National team suits up for a competitive game since November of 2016. To get viewers ready, here are my four players to watch throughout the seven day tournament.
The 28 year-old American midfielder who was recently named U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year for 2016. The Portland Thorns (NWSL) star performed well, earning career highs on the National team in goals (four) and assists (eight). Heath has been on the USWNT since 2008 and has no doubt grown into a reliable veteran starter.
Heath is regarded as the most skilled player within the program, never afraid to show her skill at any given moment, pleasing the fans and offering her passing ability to help her team win. She also has the ability to control the game, slow it down, speed it up she can do it all. Heath loves to put her talent on display, and is always up for a 1v1 challenge. What i look forward to most is Heath playing against France and what she will do. She has a playing style similar to her french counterparts and played with a handful of them while at PSG for the 2013-2014 season.
Heath not only provides tremendous skill, she brings the element of surprise to the game. One minute she might nutmeg a player, the next she might be linking up with one of her forwards for clean give-n-go down the sidelines. No matter what she decides, she likes to be one step ahead of her opponent. Often times than not, she is successful in shaking her defender with her silky-smooth moves and
blink-of-an-eye quickness. While she may not score a ton of goals, Heath knows exactly what her role is on this team and how to play in order for the United States to be successful.
Up next is one of the most consistent players in England’s history. This legend has been capped 150 times, scoring 40 goals in that span. Williams has suited up for her country since 2001 and each time she has a chance to step on the field, something magical happens. That’s just the kind of player she is. The Arsenal
Ladies midfielder is also a danger on set pieces for England, she loves to take them and occasionally makes her opponents pay for it.
Williams has helped build the program to what it is now, a top-five threat in women’s football. Through so many ups and downs, she has managed to remain focused on getting England to the top. Although it’s been a journey over the last two decades, only recently has the world been able to grasp just how good England are. With Williams leadership and ability, England are finally reaping the benefits of the hard work put in from past and present players. Evidence of this was in the
2015 World Cup, England beat all odds to beat Germany for the Bronze. This was the highest finish for the program and Williams penalty in extra time forever marked their place in history.
Not only did that goal put them on the map where they deserved to be for the world to see, but Williams solidified her legacy over and over. Now, as the 33 year-old prepares for yet another tournament for England, what else will she add to her legacy?
EUGENIE LE SOMMER
This next one was tough because the French have so many talented players at each position but ultimately I decided to go with Le Sommer as my player to watch. The tiny forward also can play in the midfield if needed. Le Sommer is one crafty player, a star for her club team Lyon where she scores when she pleases it seems. At the international level she has appeared 116 times for Les Bleues, scoring 52 goals in the process. The 27 year-old has been a mainstay since debuting in 2009 and hasn’t slowed down since.
Le Sommer has one of the best first touches on her team, if not the world. The way she controls the ball and uses her pace is mesmerizing to watch and is just an absolute joy. Its also a crucial part of her game as she creeps into spaces to take her preferred shot. That’s all she needs, she uses those small spaces to her advantage and it seems to always pay off. Le Sommer is gifted in a way that she doesn’t need to fit into one position, she can be efficient in the middle or going towards goal. With her size and speed, she brings a certain degree of difficulty for opposing defenders, which will be something to keep an eye out during this tournament.
While it’s true the French have the talent and enough firepower to be in the top three, they do struggle to win at the highest levels on a consistent basis and it’s
been the elephant in the room for a few years now. With a new cycle beginning can
Le Sommer and company finally live up to expectations? It’s certainly over-do.
Last but not least is one of the most feared strikers in German history. The VfL Wolfsburg player has been an absolute force for the proud soccer country since
2004. Since then the 31 year-old has appeared in 149 games and scored 49 goals. Mittag brings to the game a towering frame, and is a constant threat on set pieces. She has been a leader for quite some time, helping Germany remain a power and in the top two.
Like France, Germany have serious talent at several positions but unlike their
European counterparts, they have managed to put it all together. They won the
2007 Womens World Cup and most recently winning gold at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. Mittag was a huge part of bringing Germany its first gold in program history, playing in every game and performing well.
In the past two years, key players for German football have since retired in Celia Sasic, Nadine Angerer and Melanie Behringer. Three staples of this powerhouse team and three unforgettable players. With Mittag plus a few other veterans in Popp and Babett Peter, the German squad is once again a force to be reckoned
with. With a new head coach leading the way, it will be very interesting to see how this team plays under Steffi Jones in their first competitive match.
United States vs Germany will air March 1st at 6 PM CT on FS1. United States vs England will air March 4th at 4 PM CT on FOX. United States vs Frace will air March 7th at 6 PM CT on FS1.