With the announcement of the Olympic roster dropping tomorrow, Wednesday June 23, there is a lot of speculation on which fan favorites will make the roster and which will be left off. The Olympic roster for the United States Women’s National soccer team is composed of 18 players - a stark cut from the 23 player roster for the world cup. Head coach, Vlatko Andonovski, has a remarkable pool of talented players to choose from and not a lot of people would want to be in his shoes to make those tough cuts.
Let’s break it down by position.
Alyssa Naeher has proven time and time again that she is reliable and no longer in the shadow of former goalkeeper, Hope Solo. With Solo’s departure from the team, the number one spot was up for grabs between Naeher and Ashlynn Harris - Naeher ultimately taking the spot. Naeher is a given on this roster. She is the number one goalkeeper and it leaves fans wondering who will be number two.
Both Jane Campbell and Adrianna Franch have been called up for the recent friendlies. Campbell, while younger, has seen more minutes and more shutouts for the USWNT. Campbell has played 180 minutes with 3 shutouts while Franch has acquired 90 minutes and two shutouts. Both goalkeepers are young and starters in their respective league teams. Franch has helped keep the Portland Thorns in second place in the league and has more years than Campbell. Based on experience, statistics and recent playing time, while Campbell has acquired more minutes for the USWNT, I think Andonovski will ultimately pick Franch to be his second keeper.
The defensive line was once known as the brick wall that saved the USWNT in the 2015 World Cup. A line composed of Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston (who is now Ertz), Becky Sauerbrunn and Meghan Klingenberg. But that back line is almost out of existence and it leaves fans to wonder what will happen to the defensive edge the USWNT seems to always have. Sauerbrunn who has been captain throughout most of Andonovski’s time with the team is a no brainer. Next to her, fans can expect to see Crystal Dunn and Abby Dahlkemper as well as Kelley O’Hara. These four have been consistent throughout the time on the team and in the friendlies leading up the Olympic send off. They are well rounded players who have a veteran edge. All eyes are on the young defenders such as Emily Sonnett, Tierna Davidson, Alana Cook and Margaret Purce.
Sonnett is a no-brainer to be the next defender called on to the Olympic roster. Sonnett, who is back in the United States after winning the league championship overseas, has proven that not only can she be a defender but is adaptable in the midfield. With such a limited roster, Andonovski needs players who can play multiple positions and Sonnett is that player. Alana Cook and Margaret Purce are young and inexperienced on a national level so I do not see this as their time. The toss up is Tierna Davidson. The young defender has been performing well but is still young and with such a tight roster, I am not sure if she will make it against the players she is up against.
The USWNT has no shortage of midfielders or defenders turned midfielders. However, some fan favorites such as Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz have been out with injuries making their future going into the Olympics a little rocky. While Andonovski has been confident that Heath will be ready, the situation is not ideal. Ertz, according to a report from ESPN, is a little bit behind Heath but there is hope that both will be ready for the Olympics. Whether or not these two players make the roster, sets the precedent for the rest of the roster and those whose futures hang in the balance. But the staples of the midfield going into the Olympics will be Sam Mewis and Lindsey Horan without a doubt. Both players are not only playmakers but can also score from close up and far away if needed. With over 150 caps between the both of them, they are forces to be reckoned with.
All eyes have been on Sam’s sister, the older Mewis, Kristie Mewis. Kristie is used to being called up and left off rosters so this time around, it was clear she had something to prove. With only 24 caps, the older Mewis has scored 4 times with 3 assists for the national team. When Mewis hasn’t been on the national team, she has been putting in her time with the Houston Dash. In the league, Mewis has averaged a successful passing rate of 74.3% in her 432 minutes in the 2021 season. Her statistics stay consistent and she could be the midfielder that the USWNT is looking for to step up the passing game and be a playmaker.
With Heath, Ertz, both Mewis sisters and Horan, that is five midfielders. Rose Lavelle is sure to make the team as long as she is healthy. Lavelle suffered an injury during the friendlies and pulled herself out of the roster for the last game. If Lavelle is healthy, she will take the final spot in the midfield, leaving Andi Sullivan and Catarina Macario off of this roster. Both players are young and still have a lot of growing and rhythm to find at the national level but show a promise that they will be back.
All eyes are on the forwards who have been nothing but impressive for club and country. With the Olympics being pushed back a year, it gave Alex Morgan the chance to compete after having her first child - only makes narrowing down the star studded list even harder. Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press and Carli Lloyd have proven to be the staples of the front line. Press and Morgan have found a new rhythm together - something that rarely happened under previous coaching. With these four powerhouses, there is one spot left for a newcomer to take. It would be between Sophia Smith who has 6 caps and one assist or Lynn Williams who has 37 caps, 11 goals and 7 assists. It seems like an obvious choice. Based on experience and need for the Olympic roster, Williams will be what Andonovski is looking for, making her number 18 on the list going to the Olympics.
The USWNT is in no short of talent but fans wonder if old favorites such as Mallory Pugh, Ali Krieger and Ashlynn Harris will even be considered for the roster this time around or if they are out of the running. It also leaves the question of who will be the alternatives for this roster. The players left off are young and still have growing to do which typically makes for a good alternative. Previously, Christen Press served as an alternative for the Olympics and is now a front running forward.
Regardless of what happens the USWNT has the talent and ability to win the Olympics but they will need to find their rhythm again in order to take on the giants in their group.