RoseLavelle

With the 2019 SheBelieves Cup kicking off at Talen Energy Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, PhiladelphiaUnion.com sat down with legendary broadcaster and the voice of the Union JP Dellacamera to discuss the importantance of the tournament in the run up for the 2019 Women's World Cup in France. Dellacamera will be calling SheBelieves matches as well as the 2019 Women's World Cup.
When SheBelieves Cup happens during a World Cup year, do the players approach it differently?

It definitely means something different in a World Cup or Olympic year. Right now there's a 23 player roster for this upcoming Women's World Cup, and Jill Ellis doesn't have 23 players chosen. She's not saying how many she has chosen but I think a reasonable guess would be 18-to-20 that, barring injury, she knows she's bringing. That could leave 3-5 spots that are still open.


And players know who's on the bubble; players know who's made the team. So there will be competition for those final spots. It's always going to be more competitive when it's in a tournament year like a World Cup or like an Olympics. 


When you look at the US team right now with 18-20 spots likely locked in, what are the goals for Jill Ellis and the players in a tournament like this? What do they focus on?
Chemistry, for sure. Who's going to be the center back combination -- you have to make sure they have reps -- and I think right now there are three players that are in line for two jobs: [Abby] Dahlkemper, [Becky] Sauerbrunn, and [Tierna] Davidson. I think the earlier that Ellis decides on who the two will be, the quicker we'll get to some chemistry. I think it's going to be the same in other spots on the field where Ellis isn't sure who's starting. 


But I think in the starting eleven, there's probably nine spots secured. So I think she's pretty close to her lineup. 


And I also think they'll work on different tactics. How do you break down teams that are going to bunker against you at the World Cup? And they've struggled in the past against that for various reasons. It's not easy to play against a team that bunkers. If the team executes a bunker mentality well, it's always going to be tough to beat.


So the US has to be prepared for two kinds of games. One is: A team that bunkers against them and plays on the counterattack, hoping to sneak in a goal and maybe win a game 1-0. The other is, and I think we saw this last year: Teams that respect the US but don't give them too much respect and try to go head to head with them. We saw Scotland do that, we saw Portugal and Spain try to do that. I think those are the two types of teams you are going to face and Jill Ellis will have this team prepared for both. 


When you think of the US going up against a team that's going to bunker and counter, which players do you look toward as the keys to unlocking that kind of opponent?
Tobin Heath for sure. One-on-one, she's outstanding. In the games where Tobin was missing due to injury or other reasons, the team didn't look as sharp. She's good on the ball, she creates on her own, does well with crosses, beating players on the wing: She does so much to break apart a defense. 


I think Megan Rapinoe is one on the other side of the field who is a key player to breaking down the bunker. 


On the other side, when teams do come out with and try to press a bit more, who needs to stand out? 
I think Julie Ertz. She's such a good all-around player. And playing in that holding midfield spot, she can break up plays but she will also help the attack get started. 


Regardless of the game, regardless of the opponent, I think she's one of the most important players on this team. You know what you get from Julie Ertz, and I'm looking forward to seeing her have a very big World Cup. 


It will be her second World Cup, and this time at a different position. As you remember, she was a center back next to Sauerbrunn at the 2015 Women's World Cup and played very well in that position. But situations change and now she's a holding midfielder and very good at it. 


Even against top opponents like they'll face in the SheBelieves Cup, this US team is nearly always the favorite. Does that affect how they approach these games mentally?
Whatever tournament the US goes into, they -- and they may be the only team -- are expected to win. Other teams expect the US to win, media expects the US to win: They're the clear favorite, and they've played with that for years. They don't always win, but leaving aside the last Olympics, they're always very close. I think they're used to playing with this pressure and it doesn't phase them. 


I think it affects other teams in the sense that they have to get up for the US because otherwise they have no chance. Talent-wise, the US has the best eleven no matter who they start. They also have the best 18 on a gameday roster. They also have the best 23 on a 23-player roster. So in order to beat them, you have to have your A-game against them, and you have to hope that the US doesn't have their A-game. Because if both teams have their A-game, barring a crazy stroke of luck, the better team should win. 


Are there any players you're looking at to take the next step forward and move from being someone who is a very good player to a household name? To potentially grab the spotlight this year during the SheBelieves tournament and into the Women's World Cup?
It might be surprising to say: Alex Morgan. But if you remember at the last World Cup, she was injured at the start and didn't really get to play as much or be near her best until we were near the end of the tournament. 


She's in unbelieveable form; she was at almost a goal per game during the last calendar year. If Alex Morgan plays the way she has been playing, this could be her tournament. And everybody may be talking about her the way they talked about Carli Lloyd in 2015. 


But if you're looking for other names, somebody else we could be talking about when this Women's World Cup is over that maybe you aren't thinking about now: If she's healthy, Rose Lovell. And she's also one of those players -- going back to Heath and Rapinoe -- that, with either her dribbling or passing, her soccer IQ, she's able to handle that bunker situation. I think that if she stays healthy, a lot of people could be talking about her when it's over. 


And another one is Alyssa Naeher. She's following up the greatest goalkeeper, in my opinion, in women's soccer history. Not just for the US: I think Hope Solo is the best goalkeeper ever in the women's game. And we've seen a lot of great goalkeepers. 


This is the first major tournament for Alyssa Naeher. And when the tournament is over, there will be a lot of talk about her. Because if she plays up to her abilities, then nobody is talking about a drop from Hope Solo. But if she or the team struggles, because she's in that goalkeeper position, and because Solo was so great at it, people will be talking about it. 


What sort of test will this Japan team give the US, and what do you look for from both sides in this matchup?
Japan has some injuries coming in, and we're not sure who they will be starting. But they're in good form; they've won their last six games. The offense was great, defense was stingy over those six games.


But they haven't played since November, and that's why we're not sure what we're going to see. Their last game was a friendly against Norway and that was a few months ago. At least the US had a couple of games in January, and we know more of what to expect from them. 


But this is a Japan team that has some talent, some speed, and some confidence. And I think that they'll be better than the last time we saw them.


The last time we saw them was in the Tournament of Nations, and they really struggled. They lost all three games, showed some signs of brilliance, but for the most part it was not as strong of a Japan team as we've seen over the years. They're trying to make that transition from 2015 when they finished in the finals of the World Cup to getting back by getting rid of some players, bringing in new players. We'll see some players from their Under-20 World Cup championship, and they could be future stars. 


But we won't know what we're going to see until they roll the ball out Wednesday night. 


And how about England and Brazil? Anybody from the old guard or the new generation that you have your eye on as they prepare for the World Cup?
For Brazil, it's all about Marta. This is probably going to be her last hurrah at a World Cup, I would think. She's in her 30s now and still a great player but not the same player that we saw four years ago. She probably knows this too, and she has the pressure of Brazil much like a Neymar does. And she understands that and accepts that. 


I think if things go right for England, they could make a deep run in this Women's World Cup. And not because they have one big player that everybody talks about, or even two. But I think England has so many good, experienced players that have been with this team now for a few years and have played in other tournaments that -- they have nine players from Manchester City and that's a chemistry talking point -- they are somebody that if you deepen the pool of teams that have a shot at winning the World Cup -- the US and France stand out as the top two -- England's in there.