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Vlatko Andonovski: Alyssa Thompson ‘will make a case’ for World Cup spot

(Kiyoshi Mio/USA TODAY Sports)

When the USWNT released its last roster before the World Cup on Tuesday, Alyssa Thompson did not appear on it. The snub came despite her recent uptick in form at the professional level.

The No. 1 overall pick in the NWSL draft, Thompson already has scored twice for Angel City FC – once in her professional debut against Liga MX’s Club América and then again in her NWSL debut against Gotham FC.

She made her USWNT debut at 17 years old last October, entering as a substitute in front of a crowd of 70,000-plus at London’s Wembley Stadium. She again was called up for the team’s November matches against Germany, but she did not make the roster for camps in January and February.

While she seems destined to become the next big thing in American soccer, a stacked forward group has meant that Thompson could be left on the outside looking in during this World Cup cycle.

But she hasn’t been making it easy for coach Vlatko Andonovski and company.

“Alyssa Thompson, I mean, she’s an exciting player. If there is a person that believes in Alyssa Thompson, or a coach that believes in Alyssa Thompson, it’d probably be me,” Andonovski told reporters Tuesday. “Not long ago, when she was 17 years old, her first cap was against one of the best teams in the world in front of 80,000 people, and that was a decision that I made.

“So that speaks of how much I value Alyssa and how much I believe in her.”

The USWNT coach still thinks Thompson “has a lot of potential” and “will make a case for a roster spot” at this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, he said. After all, that’s why she was called up toward the end of last year: to give her national team experience in the event that she does get called up to go Down Under.

Her chance at a World Cup roster spot hinges on the beginning of her first professional season with Angel City.

“Part of the reason why she was in those camps was that, if that happens, that she has a good season and she does well and earns a roster spot for the World Cup, that is not her first camp with the team, but she already has an experience being in the environment, understands the dynamics in the environment,” he said. “She’s already played in big matches, good opponents, so the transition, or coming in, it’s not as hard for her.”

But Andonovski does not want to rush Thompson, perhaps wary of other stars (see: Mallory Swanson, née Pugh) who made early debuts and then struggled before returning to form. It’s important, he said, that she continues to have fun while playing.

“I do want to point out one thing about Alyssa at this point: for her, the most important thing is that she enjoys the game that she plays,” he said. She enjoys her market, her club environment, because we don’t want to put too much pressure on her.

“She’s a young player, talented player, good player, and all she needs to do is just enjoy the game that she plays, focus on what she does best and allow the people that are making the decision to make the decision for her.”