The U.S. Women’s National Team begins its final preparation for the Tokyo Olympics with the Send-Off Series, which starts with a friendly against Mexico on Thursday in East Hartford, Connecticut.
Vlatko Andonovski’s squad features the reliable core of veterans such as Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd. The midfield, however, packs an intriguing mix of experience and youth.
“With the midfield itself, it’s one thing making a decision for who is going to be on the roster and then it’s another one when it comes to who’s going to play in any certain game,” Andonovski said. “The midfielders that we have on the roster now are all capable of playing and are starters. … Having the depth and depth with such high quality is huge.”
Rose Lavelle enters the Olympics coming off an excellent performance at the 2019 World Cup. National team veteran Julie Ertz has recovered from a knee injury to be included. Another veteran in Lindsey Horan joins Samantha Mewis and Kristie Mewis in a talented midfield that will challenge Andonovski’s lineup decision-making.
The USWNT received some encouraging news regarding roster size. The International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that alternate players on Olympic rosters will be included in the active roster, meaning the rosters are expanded from 18 players to 22.
Andonovski has named goalkeeper Jane Campbell, defender Casey Krueger, midfielder Catarina Macario, and forward Lynn Williams as the four alternates to the Olympic roster. The addition of Macario adds even more quality depth in the midfield. The 21-year-old Olympique Lyon midfielder is one of the fastest-rising young players in the USWNT setup.
“We are very happy about it, and as of right now we’re just waiting to see a little more details on what the rules and regulations are going to look like,” Andonovski said. “Even before this (decision), it was well known that there are things in works. We thought about it. We were preparing in some ways. We are hoping to be ready if the changes come in place.”
All but Macario are currently playing for their NWSL teams, so they will not be available for Thursday’s game.
Mexico’s roster features one NWSL player, Washington Spirit defender Karina Rodriguez, and is otherwise mostly made up of players from Liga MX Femenil.
Andonovski said Mexico is a strong opponent in preparation for the Olympics because of the regional familiarity between the two teams. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher said these friendlies will be key to switching gears from the NWSL season.
“We hit a little bit of a reset leaving our club teams and coming into camp,” Naeher said. “This is obviously the last sendoff before heading overseas and this is an opportunity to come back together as a national team and as a group and get back on the field together and fine-tune some last pieces.”