Six months into the tournament that will determine whether the U.S. women’s national team qualifies for the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics, several of the team’s familiar names are missing from the camp. But, as coach Vlatko Andonovski explains, that is by design.
The U.S. women gather in Austin, Texas, for their annual January camp that begins next Wednesday, and while it won’t feature any games, it will still be a testing ground. A post-Olympics transition process that began in the fall will seriously accelerate, as a number of younger, and in a significant case, new players take the stage.
Out are Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe (Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Ertz and Crystal Dunn are out too, but for medical reasons), while Trinity Rodman gets her first call-up after her big NWSL campaign to headline the group of 25 players called.
“With no games to cut down on, we can participate in some more intense training sessions and full-field games, which is great as we need to give this group as many opportunities as possible to play together in a national team environment.” Andonovski said in a statement. “We understand that some of the players are coming out of a break, so we will keep that in mind as we begin work on 2022 for what will be a very important year for these players and our team.”
That important year will continue next month with a diluted version of the SheBelieves Cup (Czech Republic, Iceland and New Zealand are not quite the level of opponents of Brazil, Germany, France and England that have traditionally been part of the competition) with the Sight on the July W Championship, a new Concacaf event that combines the qualification process for two major world events into a single competition.
The US and Canada received direct passes to the final stages of the tournament, while 30 other nations will compete in a group stage starting next month, with the winners of each of the six five-team groups joining them in the eight-team competition.
The W Championship is divided into two groups of four, where the top two teams from each group immediately qualify for the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, while the two third-place teams participate in the intercontinental tournament of FIFA. Separately, the winner of the competition automatically qualifies for the 2024 Olympics, while the second and third place finalists go to a tiebreaker for the region’s other spot in Paris.
When asked Wednesday, Andonovski did not indicate whether or not he was a fan of the new setup, but puts more emphasis on filling out his core group and forces him to make some fairly immediate decisions when it comes to newcomers. incorporate and which veterans to lean on for games with multiple levels of pressure.
The real newcomer next week is Rodman, who was vital in the Washington Spirit’s NWSL title race. Andonovski isn’t putting any immediate expectations on the 19-year-old’s shoulders, but with Carli Lloyd retiring and other American attackers aging, there is a role to play.
“Trinity, obviously, is one of the most exciting players in the world. [NWSL] last season, “Andonovski said in a conference call with the media.” She showed that she can have an impact on a professional level and now she has won the call for the national team. We don’t want to rush anything. We have to be patient, but we want to expose her to the environment where she can get her feet wet a bit, get used to the environment and my training. “
Naomi Girma and Jaelin Howell, the top two picks in last month’s NWSL draft, are also part of the youth movement. Andonovski explained how he came up with a short-term plan before the November US camp that the aforementioned veterans would not be included during the winter, saying: “these players are not off the scene in any way” and should be expected to rejoin the fold as soon as the SheBelieves Cup.
“A lot of things now depend on how well the newer players do,” Andonovski added.
As for those who were not included for pre-planned training reasons, Ertz “is not physically ready to perform at camp” after recovering from her knee injury, while the 36-year-old Sauerbrunn had a setback after have a procedure to freeze your eggs. After talks with her and the medical staff, Andonovski said: “If she is back in shape, healthy and can play minutes, SheBelieves will consider her for that camp.”
For Dunn, who will give birth in May, Andonovski said there have been no discussions about her plan to return to the game, indicating that they will take place when appropriate. The importance, he said, is that she has a healthy delivery and baby before the player and the medical and performance departments speak about the future. But he fully expected his return at some point, presumably long after the W Championship.
Another omitted player was Catarina Macario, who was initially going to be included. But after his club, Lyon, drew with PSG in the knockout stages of the Coupe de France, it was decided that he should stay at his club and play in the high-intensity environment it will provide.
As a result, here are the players who will compete in the camp (an additional player is expected to be added as well, Andonovski said), looking to further cement their spots for big-ticket matches this summer:
GOALKEEPERS: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
DEFENDERS: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Imani Dorsey (NJ / NY Gotham FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC) ), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)
MIDFIELDERS: Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ / NY Gotham FC), Samantha Mewis (Kansas City Current), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Spirit of Washington)
FORWARD: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Margaret Purce (NJ / NY Gotham FC), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current)
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.