Photo by Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports
By CAITLIN MURRAY
U.S. Soccer officially announced Monday the U.S. Women’s National Team roster for World Cup qualifying this month – but thanks to a previous leak, there were few surprises.
When the USWNT opens its qualifying against Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 15, it will have a full strength squad of mainstays Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and others.
Extra additions revealed Monday include third-string goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who will travel with the USWNT for the tournament, despite not being included on the official 20-player roster. Kristie Mewis and Julie Johnston – two players who both who have been shuffling between the back line and the midfield – will participate in camp but not stay with the team through the tournament.
Coach Jill Ellis spoke to the media Monday to explain her roster decisions, such as Wambach’s role as the players around her get younger, and Solo’s inclusion as she awaits an upcoming criminal trial.
See the full roster again below, plus four key takeaways about Ellis’ selections:
WORLD CUP QUALIFYING ROSTER
GOALKEEPERS (2): Hope Solo, Ashlyn Harris
DEFENDERS (7): Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn, Whitney Engen, Ali Krieger, Meghan Klingenberg, Kelley O’Hara, Crystal Dunn
MIDFIELDERS (6): Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Heather O’Reilly, Morgan Brian
FORWARDS (5): Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Sydney Leroux, Amy Rodriguez
WAMBACH STILL A KEY PIECE, BUT ROLE IS EVOLVING
In years past, Wambach was the player expected to get forward and be on the end of a final pass or cross. But at 34 years old in a new three-front system that Ellis has implemented, the question has been whether continuing Wambach in the same role would hold back the USWNT. Wambach will still play a big role for the USWNT, Ellis said, but the forward will now be tasked with setting up her teammates more.
“We definitely want to have a player we can play off of,” Ellis said when asked about Wambach’s role on the team. “We’re basically asking Abby to be a little bit more of a player we can bounce balls off of and really have the focus on her ability to hold the ball for us, allow players to get underneath her a little bit and play with a bit more width. “
PRESS WILL CONTINUE IN A SUPPORTING FORWARD ROLE
The USWNT has never been short on goalscoring talent, but Press is the kind of player that forced U.S. Soccer to take notice with her finishing as a target forward. After setting Stanford University’s all-time scoring record, she eventually ended up in Sweden, where last year she was the top-scorer in the top-tier Damallsvenskan.
But it’s likely Press will continue playing in a wider role for the USWNT. Ellis said that her goal is to see Press in the 18-yard box and involved in the attack, even from a winger position.
“She’s a player that has a great flexibility,” Ellis said. “She can play wide, she can play central, she can make runs in behind (defenses). She’s very versatile, very talented and obviously scores goals.”
BRIAN IS READY FOR THE BIG TIME
When SBI looked at the group Ellis might call in, Brian was the only lingering question. She is the only player in the USWNT’s pool that is still in college and, under youth-focused former coach Tom Sermanni, Brian seemed primed to become a starting presence in the central midfield. But speaking to reporters Monday, Ellis made it clear she also sees Brian as being ready for the USWNT’s level.
Brian is naturally an attacking midfielder, but Ellis said Brian is being asked to fill a defensive midfielder role. Lauren Holiday seems to be the starter in what Ellis calls the USWNT’s No. 6 spot, but Brian has shown she has the versatility to help there, too.
“I see her as an important piece for qualifying,” Ellis said, adding that she expects to play Brian during qualifiers as Holiday’s backup. “She’s had a tremendous career at this level.”
SOLO ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE
The situation surrounding Hope Solo has been an unusual one, to be sure. In June, when she was arrested for allegedly assaulting her nephew and half-sister, the issue barely registered a ripple outside of soccer media. Mainstream media only recently turned their focus to Solo, and Solo’s friend and teammate Jill Loyden joined the side of critics Monday, announcing her retirement in an op-ed for USA Today as she called for Solo to be benched.
Asked about Solo’s place on the roster, Ellis said that, after much deliberation, U.S. Soccer is standing by its initial decision to let the legal process play out. Solo’s trial is scheduled for Nov. 4.
“I have had a lot of thought and a lot of discussions within U.S. Soccer, and we certainly acknowledge that these are very serious issues,” Ellis said. “But after careful thought and consideration, we determined to stand by our decision to let this legal process to play out and to have Hope remain with the team.”
What do you think of Ellis’ roster decisions? What do you make of Naeher, Mewis and Johnston earning unofficial call-ups? Do you like Ellis’ vision for Wambach and other players?
Share your thoughts below.