Looking Ahead To The USWNT Olympic Roster
The USWNT is on the home stretch of their 10 game victory tour after this summer’s World Cup Championship and already the team has lost a lot of it’s experience and star power. Gpone are veteran midfielders Shannon Boxx and Lauren Holiday, defender Lori Chalupny, and the face of women’s soccer for the last decade, Abby Wambach. These retirements are unsurprising and also make Coach Jill Ellis’s job somewhat easier since the Olympic roster will only have space available for 18 players, as opposed to the 23 spots for the World Cup games. Throughout the victory tour Ellis has experimented with different positions for existing players while also giving quality minutes to new blood. Let’s take a look at what the lineup changes of the current games can tell us about the potential 2016 Olympic roster.
Goalkeeper: Hope Solo and Ashyln Harris. WIth only two roster spots available for keepers this decision is pretty well set in stone. The bigger question at goal for the US is whether or not these two will attempt to make the roster for the 2019 World Cup. For now they are #’s 1 and 2.
Defender: Becky Saurbrunn, Julie Johnson, Meghan Klingenberg, and Ali Krieger are certain to be back for the US, as is centerback Whitney Egan. Kelley O’Hara is also a lock to make the team given her versatility, and will likely serve as the backup for Klingenberg and Krieger as well as the midfield. Christie Rampone is also still in the mix and looking to make one more Olympic appearance. Injuries have caught up with Rampone, however, and it is unclear if Jill Ellis can afford to spend a roster spot on a player that isn’t completely healthy. Jaelene Hinkle, Gina Lewandoski, and Emily Sonnet have also gotten recent game action.
Midfielders: Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, Megan Rapinoe, and Tobin Heath are entrenched as starters with Crystal Dunn seemingly ready to take on a major role. O’Hara can back up any of the 4 positions and both Tobin Heath and Becky Saurbrunn have been logging minutes as holding midfielders as of late. Heath’s skill set is better suited to an attacking role, however, as her creativity allows her to extend her runs, open up space, and make timely passes to the forwards. Heather O’Reilly is making a strong case with her recent play. Samantha Mewis and Stephanie McCaffery have also gotten some action lately with Mewis logging the most minutes, next to Dunn, of the non World Cup players.
Forwards: Alex Morgan, Christen Press, and Amy Rodriguez appear to be the top players returning, however, if Sydney Leroux is healthy it’s difficult to imagine her not making the team. If she isn’t 100% healthy Lindsey Horan could be an enticing option for Ellis. Horan is more similar to Wambach than any other player on the US roster and her presence could allow the US to maintain their dominance in set pieces.
As for what this means in terms of next summer’s Olympic roster, maybe nothing. Although it does appear as if Ellis and the WNT staff have enough competition waiting in the wings to more than make up for the retiring players.
Ellis still has the most talented team in the world. The US has enough talent to contend for two medals if the team was split in two. Ellis appears to favor strikers over pure midfielders - such as Heather O’Reilly - and Christen Press can play the attacking midfielder as well as anyone. With Kelley O’Hara also capable of providing a spark off the bench and Crystal Dunn proving to be worthy of more playing time, my best guess is that Ellis opts for depth at defender and midfield and trusts that her four best, and healthy, strikers will be able to get the job done.
Best Guess Roster
Goalkeeper: (2) Hope Solo, Ashlyn Harris
Defender: (6) Becky Saurbrunn, Julie Johnston, Ali Krieger, Meghan Klingenberg, Whitney Engen, Kelley O’Hara*
Midfielder: (6) Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Crystal Dunn, Samantha Mewis
Forward: (4) Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Amy Rodriguez, Lindsey Horan
Reserves: Heather O’Reilly, Alyssa Naehler, Sydney Leroux