Some 30,000 people are expected at Nippert Stadium Tuesday night to watch U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (USWNT) take on the 'Football Ferns' of New Zealand.
Members of several supporters groups gathered Sunday evening at a studio in Avondale to work on a special banner to be unveiled before the match. Stephen Starkey created the design for what's called a "tifo" (pronounced TEE-foh).
"A tifo is anything from a small 4' by 4' banner - you'll see those at FC Cincinnati games all the time - to what we're doing which is a large, 30-foot by 40-foot banner that's going to be unveiled before the match."
The design is being kept secret until the moment members of the supporters groups unfurl the tifo in the stands. Tifos are meant to inspire the home team and energize the fans.
"The biggest thing," says Starkey, "is trying to showcase our supporters culture and making sure that we announce ourselves on the national stage. We've done a lot of stuff for FC Cincinnati that local people, people who go to games, they've seen it and they've experienced those banners that we've done, but this is going to be seen nationwide so it's important to really showcase what we can do."
Hometown Star Rose Lavelle
A big question for many fans will be whether Cincinnati-native Rose Lavelle will play Tuesday night. If she does, it would be her first appearance as a professional in front of her hometown crowd.
Lavelle has seen limited playing time since suffering a hamstring injury while playing with the national team against Norway in June. The midfielder was the number one National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) draft pick in 2017 and plays for the Boston Breakers.
During practice Monday at Nippert Stadium, Lavelle told reporters she's excited to be home in Cincinnati and reminisced about watching the national team play in Paul Brown Stadium when she was younger.
"When I watched them play, that was when Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Julie Foudy were all still playing and I know how huge that was for me to see them play in person, it was such an inspiration, so I hope this game can serve that same purpose and inspire girls and even boys that what's to say they can't be in our shoes someday."
USWNT Head Coach Jill Ellis sees a bright national team future for Lavelle if she can stay healthy.
"Rose's attributes are her technical proficiency," says Ellis. "She's very good on the ball, very good at separating, reads the game exceptionally well, is a good passer of the ball... is she a finished product? By no means is she a finished product but it's going to be exciting to see where Rose can go."
If she can stay healthy, Ellis says the key for Lavelle is making the most of her time training with the national team and getting minutes during games.
Lavelle has also taken note of FC Cincinnati's success. "It's something I brag about," she says. "I feel so proud to be from here and now [to] have this city have such a huge soccer following, I think is really exciting and a testament to the city."
A post shared by U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) on
Sep 7, 2017 at 3:56pm PDT
Preparing For The 2019 Women's World Cup
Ellis has brought in a lot of young defenders and continues to tinker with the lineup as the team prepares for the 2019 Women's World Cup in France. Several of the veterans fans are used to seeing have been left off recent rosters in favor of allowing trying out newer players. For example, Ellis says she likes the center back combination of veteran Becky Sauerbrunn with relative newcomer Abby Dahlkemper. That has allowed Julie Ertz to push forward into the midfield where she scored two goals Friday night in Denver against New Zealand.
That leaves plenty of room for Taylor Smith, Kelly O'Hara and Casey Short to make runs out of the backfield on the wings, while still being versatile enough to slide into the center when needed. "Abby and Becky have been partnered together now for the last five games knowing that we have Casey Short who can play on the left side of center back and also JJ (Julie Ertz) can play as a center back," says Ellis. "So I think we've got a little bit of depth now central and I think it's just continuing now to evolve the outside back position."