by Grant Wiedenfeld, Keeper Notes citoyen
The June USWNT Summer Series was the final training camp and slate of international friendlies before head coach Vlatko Andonovski announces the roster for the Tokyo Olympics. The US women won all three games and conceded no goals; every available player save goalkeeper Jane Campbell and defender Alana Cook saw the field at least once.
Twenty-three players were in the June camp, along with Tobin Heath as a training player. Julie Ertz is still recovering from the MCL sprain she suffered in mid-May but will likely be available for the Olympics. Assuming no other players are in consideration for the Olympic roster, that means Andonovski has a pool of 25 players — and only 18 make the final roster for Tokyo, plus four alternates.
So the big question for each player is — after the Summer Series, which way is their stock trending? Below are a few thoughts after the three friendlies in Texas (with some consideration for the first four weeks of the NWSL regular season).
Down, slightly. Being called into every camp under Andonovski is a good sign, and she has arned 2 caps during that time (and her first international clean sheet). She has but one clean sheet in her seven Dash appearances in 2021.
Up, significantly. The Summer Series was her first call-up since March 2020. Franch was out of the mix for the rest of 2020 due to injury. Her three shutouts so far in the 2021 NWSL regular season and a heroic save in the Challenge Cup final PK shootout earned her a call-back. Her start against last weekend versus Jamaica and prior experience on the 2019 World Cup roster could indicate that she could claim the #2 keeper spot.
Even. Unshaken in the starting keeper role. She did not prevent her Chicago club from conceding 5 to Portland in May and sliding down the table, but she was not to blame. What little she had to do in the Summer Series shutouts versus Portugal and Nigeria she did well.
Even. Not seeing the field in Houston or Austin, it’s doubtful she makes this roster as anything more than an alternate. But regular call-ups for the young center back point to her future. Abby Dahlkemper said of Cook, “You can see her learning and growing. She has the qualities to be one of the best center backs in the world.” Becky Sauerbrunn agrees. “She’s going to be a mainstay in this program for years to come.” Vlatko will want to bring her as an alternate if he can.
Even. The North Carolina Courage have missed her dearly, which is a testament to her value on the back line. With the FA WSL season ver, Andonovski played her all 270 minutes of the Summer Series to maintain her fitness.
Up, slightly. She looks more and more poised at center back, so would seem to be the primary backup at that position. Leading Chicago’s defense with Ertz out may have helped build her confidence. Andonovsi played her at right back during the She Believes Cup and left back against Nigeria, so Davidson offers versatility too.
Up, slightly. Dunn’s midfield play with her new NWSL club in Rose City has highlighted the versatility of the national team’s left back. She scored her first goal for the Thorns in the 1-0 win at Gotham FC last month. Andonovski played her forward earlier this year, too. Regardless she is a lock at left back for this team.
Even. She remains the starter at right back. Her health seems a bit fragile even after a year, but she looked spry in 90 minutes against Nigeria. Andonovski could limit O’Hara’s minutes to starting in key games.
Up, slightly. She started at forward against Jamaica and scored. Then she was moved to right back for the second half. In March Andonovski said she’s still mastering the defensive position, so Purce’s roster spot is less secure. An exciting one-on-one attacker she did not always appear in tune with teammates on short passes in the Houston games. Is trying to play two positions slowing down her proficiency at both, or making her growth less obvious? Regardless, the team has few better backup options.
Even. A seeming lock for the roster, she has looked in top form after dealing with injury in 2020. Her leadership skills, whether she’s on the field or on the bench, cannot be underestimated.
Even. She saw time in all three June games, at right back, left back, and defensive midfield positions. A stretch of bad play against Jamaica was exceptional, and she regained her confidence by the game’s end.
Down, slightly. Andnovski says she’s on pace to recover for the Olympics. She’s the best in the world at her position — and she can play center back if needed. But not seeing her play or train in Texas must lower her stock somewhat.
Up, significantly. Filling in for Ertz in the defensive midfield role, Andonovski said she was “a monster” against Portugal, “controlling the game from the lower part of the field.” Horan directed the attack against Jamaica from the defensive midfield too. Against Nigeria, Sonnett was subbed in so Horan could push forward. Excelling in both midfield positions can only improve her stock. She should see much more playing time than she did in France for the World Cup (especially with Ertz and Lavelle injuries).
Even. She looked electric on the pitch and had a fine assist to Carli Lloyd for the first strike against Jamaica. But then she rolled her ankle a half hour in and took herself out. Andonovski said “I’m proud of her” for taking herself out of the game to not worsen the injury. She’s a lock for the Olympic roster if healthy.
Even. She has been present in every camp since she became eligible to play for the USWNT, and the optimism of Andonovski has not dimmed. When she started against Jamaica and struggled, he shifted blame to the team: she was positioned well, but “we weren’t finding her.” She looked more integrated subbing in against Nigeria. She’s obviously part of the team’s long term plan, but it will be interesting to see what Andonovski chooses to do with her in the present.
Even. Mewis the elder has also been a call-up under Andonovski. She only played a half in Houston but earned the start in Austin with Lavelle sidelined. That’s a good sign. She was involved in the attacking play but couldn’t find any magic in tight quarters. “It was hard for her to get on the ball very often but she showed some good things on the field,” Andonovski said. Macario may have the bigger upside, but this Mewis appears to be the more fluid part of the team in the present.
Up, slightly. She scored an easy header against Portugal to win the game, and has shown more attacking skills in the last year. Subbing in for Lavelle against Jamaica, Mewis’ second-half passing deserves credit. Andonovski praised her second-half work as more “mature” than the first when she came on.
Up, significantly. Sullivan was capped during the Summer Series for the first time since January 2020. Her injury from the 2020 Challenge Cup kept her out of the fall camps, but her strong recovery and leadership for her club team favor her inclusion. However, this midfield may be too talented for her to make the roster.
Up, slightly. Lloyd captained the Jamaica and Nigeria matches, and scored right out of the gate against the Reggae Girlz. Without confirming her roster inclusion, Andonovski said “she’s in a good place.” Lloyd herself is confident that she is playing at her best ever and fits well into the team’s high press in the center forward position. After she sat out 2020, there was concern that she would would lose her spot, but she seems to have been rejuvenated by the break.
Up, slightly. The more she plays, the closer she returns to form. Morgan has apparently regained her starting position as center forward, starting versus Portugal. She subbed in at halftime against Jamaica and scored in stoppage. She also scored in four straight games for the Orlando Pride, helping her club to its first appearance at the top of the NWSL standings. Pregnancy might have kept her out of the Olympics last year, but the delay to 2021 has taken the question mark away.
Up, slightly. She started all three Summer Series matches and played on both left and right sides. She logged a goal and three assists, and was named Player of the Match against both Jamaica and Nigeria. When asked for his opinion of best play of the game versus Jamaica, Andonovski suggested her blocked shot. Even if Heath is healthy in time for the Olympics, she will have to claw back that starting XI spot from Press.
Even. The 2020 break rejuvenated Rapinoe, as evidenced by her play in She Believes and the friendlies in Europe. She didn’t produce much in Texas and hasn’t lit up the scoresheet for OL Reign, but there is no clear drop in her play. The tournament pressure should bring out her best once more.
Up, slightly. Smith subbed into all three games and looked more comfortable than she was last year. She has no international goals yet, but she has been productive lately for Portland, netting two against Chicago. Like Macario, she’s a young player whom Andonovski might select for her potential.
Even. Williams was a first choice starter at Concacaf Olympic qualifying in early 2020, and she produced. She scored for the Courage in both the 2020 Challenge Cup and the Fall Series. But she’s been fairly quiet in 2021 … until the end of the Nigeria match in Austin. Not only did she score the final goal, but her mere 10 minutes on the field completely changed the game. Andonovski also praised her one-touch pass to Sam Mewis that led to Morgan’s stoppage-time goal against Jamaica. She has been more effective lately as a sub, but is capable of logging many more minutes at high speed than any other USWNT forward.
Up, slightly. Aside from a draw against Sweden in April, the USWNT has not lost under Vlatko Andonovski. He has tinkered with lineups as player health and form have changed, but has never shown any nervousness, even when the goals have not been there. In a way, inheriting a World-Cup-winning lineup is no difficult task. Coaches with more ego might have made wholesale changes. His selections at the periphery of the roster may reveal whether he favors youth or experience, present form or potential.
It’s also good to see that he listens to captain Becky Sauerbrunn. “I’ve talked to Vlatko because this is the first roster selection for him,” she said, “mainly just telling him how we’ve done things in the past, and the things that players appreciate — namely, honesty.” The decision is ultimately his of course, but building a good rapport with the World Cup champion squad is the way to earn their respect, too.
Wiedenfeld’s Predicted 18 + 4 alternates
Dahlkemper (CB), Davidson (CB/WB), Dunn (LB), O’Hara (RB), Sauerbrunn (CB), Sonnett (WB/DM)
Ertz (DM/CB), Horan – DM, Lavelle (RM), S. Mewis (LM)
Heath (RF/M), Lloyd (CF), Morgan (CF), Press (RF/LF), Rapinoe (LF), Williams (F)
Campbell (GK), Macario (M), Purce (RB/RF), Smith (F)
Not selected: Cook, Mewis, Sullivan
In this case, I’ve assumed that Ertz and Health will be healthy. If they are, I can’t imagine both of them being left off. If they aren’t healthy or on track to be, look for Kristie Mewis and Macario to fill their spots for Tokyo.
The final spot is a tough call. Given O’Hara’s predisposition to leg injuries, Purce seems the pragmatic choice. She also brings just as much to the attack as Williams, Macario, or Smith (given what we’ve seen in their national team production so far). But having seen the impact Williams had against Nigeria, she may have the most potential impact as a late substitute.
The alternates are also difficult to gauge. Andonovski said that development is just as important a factor as experience, so I expect him to favor youth with Macario, Smith, and Campbell, looking forward to the 2023 Women’s World Cup and beyond. Or he may see Kristie Mewis, Purce, and Sullivan as the best backups now if injury occurred.