- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

The U.S. women’s national team certainly isn’t panicking over recent losses. Instead, the focus is on the process.

Following a shutout by France last weekend, the United States is readying for another exhibition on Friday against England. The ultimate goal is preparation for this year’s Women’s World Cup.

“At this point, we’re in the process of evaluating and also building and that’s why we play strong teams, to test ourselves,” coach Jill Ellis said.

France, ranked No. 3 in the world by soccer’s international governing body, defeated the second-ranked United States 2-0 last Sunday in Lorient. It was the first time in 17 matches that the French had been able to defeat the Americans.

With a 0-0 draw against Brazil in late December, the second-ranked Americans have been shut out in consecutive games for the first time in 13 years.

The United States has just one victory in its last five matches. That’s a concern for fans used to seeing the team romp on the world stage.

“It’s an evolution. There are certain phases we need to get better at, but we have to continue to grow as the rest of the world is continuing to be better,” said Ellis, who was named head coach for the run-up to the World Cup last May following the dismissal of Tom Sermanni.

Against sixth-ranked England in Milton Keynes, the United States will again be without goalkeeper Hope Solo as she continues to serve out her 30-day suspension from the team.

U.S. Soccer imposed the suspension after Solo’s husband, former Seattle Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens, was arrested in Southern California on suspicion of driving under the influence in a team van. Solo, in training camp at the time, was a passenger when Stevens was pulled over.

Solo, who had started 25 of the team’s last 29 matches, was replaced against France by Ashlyn Harris, making just her fifth international appearance. Harris had two tremendous saves in the first half before France scored twice in the span of about a minute in the second.

“We know we have a lot to improve on, but it’s good to work this out now and build our momentum moving forward,” said Harris, whose club team is the Washington Spirit.

The team has two other goalkeepers on the current roster: Nicole Barnhart and Alyssa Naeher. Barnhart, who plays for FC Kansas City, is the most experienced of the three with 54 international appearances.

When Solo was suspended, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati left open the possibility that she might not be back with the team for the World Cup. That means that the United States needs to get someone else ready, and quickly.

The United States is in the difficult Group D, along with Sweden, Australia and Nigeria, for the opening round of the World Cup. The Americans open the tournament on June 8 against Australia in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

England is also headed to the World Cup, landing in Group F with France, Mexico and Colombia. The Three Lions side will open with France in Moncton, New Brunswick, on June 9.

Against England on Friday, the United States will also be without midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who strained a ligament in her right knee during training camp in January, and veteran Christine Rampone, who has been ruled out because of back pain.

Forward Sydney Leroux, who did not play in the match against France after injuring her ankle late in camp, is listed as day-to-day for the match.

“It’s a big wake-up call for us. We like to win, we don’t like to have these kind of performances, but we know how much work we have to put in,” forward Christen Press said following the loss. “The drive and the motivation is there, it’s always there, but now we have even more reason to come back and get these guys again when it counts.”

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