After clinching an Olympic berth in February by defeating Mexico 4-0, the United States Women’s National Team will be taking on some difficult opponents in the upcoming SheBelieves Cup.
England, Spain, and Japan will give the U.S. women a difficult time on the pitch, but Vlatko Andonovski’s squad is as strong as ever.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the USWNT’s SheBelieves roster, beginning with the forwards.
First of all, let’s start off by saying you’ll notice Alex Morgan is not on the roster anywhere, and that’s because she’s seven months pregnant and will be unable to compete. Although she’ll miss the SheBelieves Cup, she is expecting to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
With that being said, Andonovski’s forward group is comprised of Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Jessica McDonald, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh, Megan Rapinoe and Lynn Williams.
If you’re not an everyday follower of the USWNT, some of the names on this list may not be familiar to you. While everyone knows the likes of Lloyd and Rapinoe, players like Williams and McDonald may not catch your eye.
Williams played her college soccer at Pepperdine University and competes professionally for the North Carolina Courage of the NWSL. Through 23 appearances with the USWNT, she’s notched eight goals and four assists.
With the Courage, she scored 12 goals last season. But, that’s not even the impressive part. What makes her an extremely valuable member of the USWNT, is the fact she can score with either foot. She tallied five left-footed goals and six right-footed goals last season.
Williams’ defense is actually phenomenal for an attacker. She wins 45 percent of duels, 54.7 percent of aerial battles, and has a 73.7 percent success rate on tackles. The 26-year-old also has a 63.1 percent success rate on passes. I can’t say enough good things about her. Obviously come the Olympics, she’ll be coming off the bench, but I hope to see her start some games for the USWNT through the SheBelieves Cup.
Now let’s move on to McDonald. The 32-year-old has scored twice in eight appearances this season and has been clutch since being added to the national team roster. She’s a powerful forward who can be a solid player off the bench for the USWNT — and she’s proven that.
McDonald was the first player in NWSL history to notch 33 goals in a single season, and she helped the Courage to two NWSL championship victories. Her ability to compete at the national level is terrific.
Heath, Lloyd, Rapinoe, Pugh, and Press are much more known. So, I won’t go into detail on those players for the sake of the length of this article.
Let’s now take a look at the midfielders.
The USWNT midfield consists of some players who have begun to make a name for themselves over the past year.
Here’s how Andonovski’s midfield will stack up: Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Samantha Mewis and Andi Sullivan.
Ertz and Horan have been solid for the U.S. for a few years now, but Mewis and Lavelle have really come into form over the last year.
Mewis tallied 14 goals and five assists for the USWNT in 2019. The six-foot midfielder controls the middle of the pitch with her height and instincts to turn defense into offense.
Similarly to Mewis, Lavelle notched 12 goals and seven assists in 2019 for the U.S. She’s extremely creative on the ball with the ability to turn quick plays into goals.
Andi Sullivan is probably one of the lesser-known players on the squad. In 13 appearances with the USWNT, she’s tallied two assists. Obviously that number doesn’t stand out, but she’s more than just the points on the board.
The 25-year-old is extremely versatile and can play many positions — making her more valuable to the team.
Let’s now move on to the defense.
Andonovski’s defensive group actually, I think, is the same that it’s been for a while.
Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Ali Krieger, Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Casey Short, and Emily Sonnett make up the defensive corps.
For me, Becky Sauerbrunn is a household name. I remember watching her compete when I was, like, 16-years-old — and even younger than that.
She’s one of the best defenders the U.S. has. Sauerbrunn has won NWSL Defender of the Year three years in a row and is, literally, the backbone of the USWNT defense. I can’t even express how important she is to the backline.
O’Hara and Krieger are also terrific defenders, and both play a very important role on the defensive line. I used to look up to both of them when I was younger and still played soccer, even though I wasn’t a defender.
Dunn is even making a name for herself as a member of Andonovski’s defense — she’s terrific off the bench and can even be relied upon to start games. This can also be said for Dahlkemper and Davidson.
Short and Sonnett are somewhat new to the team, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable.
Short has battled many injuries, including an ACL and ankle injury in her career, so she’s definitely struggled to remain healthy. But, when she is healthy, she’s a solid member of this U.S. squad.
Sonnett was actually a first overall pick in the NWSL draft and is an extremely promising young defender. She’s versatile and can play in the center or even out wide.
The defense, in my opinion, is one of the USWNT’s strongest points. But, honestly, the whole team is absolutely incredible.
I feel like there’s not really much to say here about the goalkeepers.
Alyssa Naeher, Adrianna Franch, and Ashlyn Harris make up the keeper corps.
Naeher is the starter, and pretty much starts a majority of games. We don’t see much of Franch and Harris, but they’re solid backups in the event Naeher gets injured, sick or can’t play for whatever reason.
I remember not being so confident in Naeher once she came in as the starter, but she’s blossomed into a terrific goalkeeper for the USWNT, and she has my full confidence.
Now let’s take a look at the SheBelieves Cup schedule.
March 5: USWNT vs. England, 7 p.m. ET @ Exploria Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
March 8: USWNT vs. Spain, 5 p.m. ET @ Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ.
March 11: USWNT vs. Japan, 8 p.m. ET @ Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
Tobin Heath (F) – Portland Thorns FC
Carli Lloyd (F) – Sky Blue FC
Megan Rapinoe (F) – Reign FC
Jessica McDonald (F) – North Carolina Courage
Christen Press (F) – Utah Royals FC
Mallory Pugh (F) – Washington Spirit
Lynn Williams (F) – North Carolina Courage
Julie Ertz (M) – Chicago Red Stars
Lindsey Horan (M) – Portland Thorns
Rose Lavelle (M) – Washington Spirit
Samatha Mewis (M) – North Carolina Courage
Andi Sullivan (M) – Washington Spirit
Abby Dahlkemper (D) – North Carolina Courage
Tierna Davidson (D) – Chicago Red Stars
Crystal Dunn (D) – North Carolina Courage
Ali Krieger (D) – Orlando Pride
Kelley O’Hara (D) – Utah Royals FC
Becky Sauerbrunn (D) – Portland Thorns FC
Casey Short (D) – Chicago Red Stars
Emily Sonnett (D) – Orlando Pride
Adrianna Franch (GK) – Portland Thorns FC
Ashlyn Harris (GK) – Orlando Pride
Alyssa Naeher (GK) – Chicago Red Stars
Starting XI Prediction
Rapinoe – Lloyd – Heath
Mewis – Ertz – Lavelle
Dunn – Sauerbrunn – Dahlkemper – O’Hara
For more thoughts and opinions from Erin, check out her author page.