With the Women’s World Cup kicking off on June 7 th in France, the USWNT is ready to defend their crown against the entire world. With a roster that places equal value on experience and youthful athleticism, Coach Jill Ellis has constructed a team that will almost assuredly be in the mix as the tournament moves into the knockout stages and beyond. Let’s take a moment to have a look at the players who will take on all-comers with Coach Ellis’ preferred 4-3-3 lineup.
Perhaps the group with the most experience, this group will strike fear in the hearts of goalkeepers all over France. Carli Lloyd will be heading into her fourth World Cup, and while she’ll likely come off the bench to provide a late spark, she’s very much a scoring threat any time she’s on the pitch. Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath will all be playing in their third World Cup, so the cumulative experience with starters at the front will be exceptionally hard to beat. First-timer Mallory Pugh has been exceptional for both club and national teams and will be on the sharp end of the American offense. She’ll be joined by speedy second-half threat Christen Press and journeywoman NWSL champion Jessica McDonald.
The USWNT’s midfield has been rounding into form, playing exceptionally well, both offensively and defensively. A big reason for that is the transition of Julie Ertz from center back to the midfield. Her athleticism and defensive skills keep opposing midfielders honest, but she’s also a threat to score from a wide range of spots. Rose LaVelle has some of the best ball skills and speed on the team. If she’s at 100%, she’s exceptionally difficult to stop, but hamstring injuries have been an issue for her over the years. Lindsey Horan is another young and athletic midfielder who can break down opposing lines in her first World Cup. Morgan Brian has struggled with injuries this season, but she’s a steady hand with World Cup experience. Coach Ellis might trust her if a more defensive mid is called for. Samantha Mewis will be on her first World Cup squad, but she’s a big, strong defensive player who can tower over opposing defenders on set pieces. Expect to see her if a longer duration sub is needed in the midfield. Allie Long was a starter on the last Olympic team, and she’s an absolute lock down defender. Expect to see her on the field when the U.S. is icing games away.
In the 4-3-3 scheme, the U.S. will want to dispossess most opponent’s attacks in the middle of the field, and also send back line attackers forward to press the ball forward. Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper and Crystal Dunn will be threats to streak down the sidelines. All are fast, dangerous scorers who can run down opposing strikers from behind when called for on counterattacks Becky Sauerbrunn is the lock-down center of this defense, just as she was four years ago. She does one thing, and does it exceedingly well, minimizing opponent’s chances from the top of the box. Ali Krieger will likely play a substitute role, but as part of the winning squad from 2015, expect to see her enter a game if the back line gets rattled at any point. Emily Sonnett, Tierna Davidson round out the back-line options that will look to make life easy for the American goaltenders.
With Hope Solo gone, some thought that there would be a void at the back of the defense. But with Alyssa Naeher, the USWNT suffers no loss in athleticism in goal. You might have missed her, but she has World Cup experience, having made the squad in 2015. She’s a calming force for this elite defense and exactly the type of leader Jill Ellis trusts on the pitch. If anything happens to Naeher, steady veteran Ashlyn Harris would step between the posts. Believe it or not, the third stringer on the USWNT roster is Adrianna Franch, the current NWSL Goalkeeper of the year, and she makes a habit of pitching shutouts, too. That’s a lot of depth at one of the most important positions on the pitch. Starting in April, the USWNT has navigated an undefeated series of friendlies, scoring twenty-two times and allowing only three goals. In that time, they’ve defeated Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, South Africa and Mexico, recording four shutouts in the process, so they have to be feeling good, despite the shakiness around the She Believes Cup earlier this year.
The USWNT opens up the 2019 World Cup on June 11 th against Thailand.
Image Source: AP Images/David Vincent