USWNT Totally Different in 2016
As the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) prepares for the Olympics in Rio this summer they look like a very different team, because they are. Due to retirements, injuries, and pregnancies this team is without 1204 caps from last years squad - or more caps than many of the opposing teams will have in total. That number is growing. It seems like Heather O’Reilly will not be making this team and Megan Rapinoe still has not returned from her late season injury bringing the possible difference to 1546 caps. In one year. (Note; for the purposes of this article we are assuming that Carli Lloyd will be playing in Brazil, else 1657 is the total.)
The need for experience on this team is overrated. There will be at least 8 starters from the World Cup and 4 backups that make the roster. Coach Jill Ellis has no choice but to replace experience with youth. She also had the foresight to realize that this year would be transitional, regardless of last summer’s outcome. What Ellis has now is a team that is young, hungry, talented, far more athletic, while still having a solid veteran core. Still, there will be some difficult roster decisions in the coming weeks (Olympic rosters are 18 players instead of 23) and Ellis will have to leave behind 8 players off of her most recent roster. The situation is still fluid and all the players will have a few NWSL games, and some international games in early July, in which to make a final impression.
Goalkeeper: (2) Hope Solo Ashlynn Harris
Adrianna Franch is an intriguing prospect and Alyssa Naeher would also be an excellent choice, but Hope Solo is going to play every minute of every game unless she gets hurt (or red carded) and Ashlynn Harris is the best option for extended play. I would expect Franch to be on the sub squad.
Defenders: (6) Kelly O’Hara Julie Johnston Becky Saurbrunn Meghan Klingenberg Whitney Engen Ali Krieger
It doesn’t seem like Christie Rampone will be ready and there just isn’t a rush to develop younger players in the defensive positions given the relative youth of Klingenberg, Johnson, and O’Hara. Emily Sonnet appears to be the closest of the young centerbacks, but she isn’t, as of now, better than Whitney Engen. Likewise Hinkle looks to be the best of the outside backs but isn’t in teh same class as Krieger. Both are good bets for the sub squad.
Midfielders: (6) Morgan Brian Lindsey Horan Carli Lloyd Tobin Heath Megan Rapinoe Sam Mewis.
We’re betting that both Rapinoe and Lloyd make it back in time for Rio. Allie Long still has a shot at making the squad, should Mewis falter, but Mewis teams with Morgan Brian as a holding midfielder better than any other player the team has tried out at that position - including Horan, who appears to be the heir apparent to Lloyd’s attacking midfielder role. Tobin Heath has been the team’s most consistent player this year and the Olympics could be her chance to establish herself as, perhaps, the best female player in the game - as opposed to simply being the most talented.
Forwards: (4) Alex Morgan Crystal Dunn Mallory Pugh Cristen Press
The USWNT really likes to run a multiple style scheme but when they play with 5 midfielders the 5th spot is almost always taken by a forward, usually Pugh or Dunn in 2016. Expect all of these girls to get a lot of playing time as each is playing very well at the moment.