Familiar faces as Matildas battle USA

The Tears For Fears song goes "all around me are familiar faces". The band could have been singing about the Matildas upcoming clash with the US Women's National Team. 

There are multiple connections between the two squads. The USA is Australia's third most frequent opponent behind New Zealand and China. 

The game on Tuesday evening at Kashima Stadium will be the 30th meeting between the two nations.  

READ: What happens next? The Matildas' path to the knockout stages

It's well known that Tony Gustavsson is the former assistant coach of the USA.  Working alongside Jill Ellis, Gustavsson would know these players well after helping the team win an Olympic gold medal and back-to-back FIFA Women's World Cups. 

But there are also connections between the players themselves. Australia and the United States have long enjoyed an informal partnership.

Players would spend their years switching between the W-League and the NWSL to accrue year-round football.

American centre back Abby Dahlkemper spent the 2015-16 season with Adelaide United. Emily Sonnett was a Sky Blue for the 2017-18 campaign.

Even Kristie Mewis and Megan Rapinoe made appearances in the W-League for Canberra United and Sydney FC respectively. 

On the flip side, Rapinoe would be very familiar with the likes of Steph Catley and Lydia Williams who played for the then-Seattle Reign. 

Portland Thorns had a collection of Aussies with Hayley Raso, Caitlin Foord, and Ellie Carpenter all playing in Rose City with Lindsey Horan, Tobin Heath, and Adriana Franch. 

Carpenter is now a teammate of Catarina Macario at Lyon in France. 

Sam Kerr terrorised defences across the United States, first with Sky Blue FC and later with the Chicago Red Stars claiming three consecutive golden boots. In Chicago, she would call current American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher a teammate. 


There is still an enormous amount of respect between Kerr and Naeher. 

“Sam’s an absolutely phenomenal player,” Naeher told FIFA.com ahead of the final Group G encounter. “A class striker and a class person – one of the good ones for sure. I have so much respect for her.

“Friendship aside, she is - and has been for several years - one of the very best in the world. It will be a great challenge to face her.

“We’re going to need to be aware of where she is at all times because she’s athletic, great in the air, can get you in behind – she’s so good at scoring in so many different ways. As a defence, we just need to stay switched on and do what we can to shut her down. If we don’t, there’s no doubt she will hurt us.”

Kerr returned the compliments. “For me, she’s probably the best keeper in the world,” Kerr told FIFA.com in the same interview. “But besides being an unbelievable player, she’s an even better person."

“I’ve actually not met Alyssa in a while, so it will be really nice to see her again. I just hope she’s not too happy when we say goodbye!”

All this familiarity means the players know each others strength and weaknesses and with plenty to play for in this match, an interesting tactical battle is sure the ensue. 

The winner of this match is set to secure second spot in Group G behind Sweden, with the loser likely to progress through to the knockouts as one of the best placed third teams. 

Kick off is on Tuesday evening at 6pm AEST.