New Zealand's under-20 women's football team depart on Sunday for three testing World Cup warm up matches in the US missing a key player but including a notable new face.
As part of preparations for August's Under-20 Women's World Cup in Japan, the Junior Football Ferns will meet two-time Under-20 world champions USA in Los Angeles on May 19. They will also play against semi professional club sides LA Strikers and Pali Blues on May 15 and 17 respectively.
Striker Rosie White, who captained the squad through a successful qualifying campaign last month, is out of action for at least six weeks due to a stress fracture in her foot that is disrupting her preparations for the London Olympics.
This was offset to a large degree with news Melbourne Victory defender and former Australian under-20 representative Rebekah Stott last night received clearance from Fifa to represent the country of her birth.
The Papamoa-born player moved to Australia as an 11-year-old and is seen as a strong contender to force her way into Olympic contention with the full New Zealand side later this year.
Despite White's absence, the Junior Football Ferns squad still boasts five players with senior international experience, and coach Aaron McFarland is excited about the opportunity to get a near full-strength side together as they build towards Japan.
"Given the crossover in players between our team and the full Football Ferns side, opportunities like this to have the squad together and build cohesion and combinations are relatively rare but extremely important," McFarland said. "The USA are consistently among the leaders in women's football and their under-20s are no exception. They will be among the favourites to lift the title in Japan and they will be a great test for us, as will the two senior club sides.
Junior Football Ferns squad: Goalkeepers: Corina Brown (Three Kings United), Erin Nayler (Eastern Suburbs). Defenders: Tessa Berger (Fencibles United), Katie Bowen (C - Glenfield Rovers), Rachel Head (Lynn Avon United), Holly Patterson (Claudelands Rovers), Caitlin Smallfield (Glenfield Rovers), Rebekah Stott (Melbourne Victory, Aus), Ashleigh Ward (Glenfield Rovers). Midfielders: Emily Cooper (Valdosta State University, USA), Kate Loye (Claudelands Rovers), Tayla O'Brien (Lynn Avon United), Nadia Pearl (Fresno University, USA). Forwards: Olivia Chance (Claudelands Rovers), Mary Fraser (Three Kings United), Evie Millynn (Eastern Suburbs), Katie Rood (Lincoln Ladies, ENG), Stephanie Skilton (Glenfield Rovers), Hannah Wilkinson (Glenfield Rovers).
New Zealand U20 vs LA Strikers, Home Depot Centre, Los Angeles, Mayn 15, 5pm (12pm May 16 NZT)
New Zealand U20 vs Pali Blues, Home Depot Centre, Los Angeles, May 17, 5pm (12pm May 18 NZT)
New Zealand U20 vs USA U20, Home Depot Centre, Los Angeles, May 19, 3pm (10am May 20 NZT)
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