How does Catarina Macario’s injury affect USWNT roster construction?

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The U.S. women’s national team has a Catarina Macario-sized hole to fill in its roster ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifying.

Macario announced Sunday that she tore her ACL in the final match of Lyon’s French league season. Per Lyon, Macario is expected to be sidelined for six months.

The 22-year-old was all but a lock for the team’s No. 9 role. Her absence shakes up the USWNT frontline ahead of July’s CONCACAF W Championship, which will determine the region’s four teams for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

What Macario’s injury means for the USWNT roster

With the star striker out for an extended period of time, a door opens up in the USWNT’s attack. Macario has been playing at center forward for the United States, flanked by Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith as of late.

The two most likely replacements for Macario are Alex Morgan and Ashley Hatch, who have played at the No. 9 position for the national team in the past.

Morgan has been a mainstay up top for the squad, rotating with Carli Lloyd as a true No. 9 at the Tokyo Olympics. The veteran striker also appears to be undergoing something of a renaissance with the NWSL’s San Diego Wave this season, notching eight goals, four of them PKs, through seven games.

Hatch, the reigning NWSL Golden Boot winner, also has seen minutes with the USWNT under coach Vlatko Andonovski, scoring four goals in her eight appearances with the squad.

Macario and Morgan in particular offer very different takes on the No. 9 position.

The injured Lyon star is known for masterfully combining with players around her, with Macario and Rose Lavelle beginning to develop a rapport in the USWNT’s attack. Macario also can easily exploit space in the final third, creatively shaking defenders while doing so.

Morgan, conversely, is a clinical finisher, known for getting in behind defenders and splitting the backline with precision.

Should Morgan — or Hatch — slot into the frontline with Pugh and Smith, the USWNT’s midfield likely will take a different shape.

Ashley Sanchez, who has earned a handful of USWNT call-ups, may look more essential to Andonovski. The attacking midfielder could link up with players in the final third, offering a burst of creativity in front of the net. Her familiarity with Washington Spirit teammate Hatch could also be a selling point for the midfielder’s inclusion on the World Cup qualifying roster.

Macario’s absence also leaves space on the frontline for Trinity Rodman or Margaret Purce to make a run at a spot on the flanks. Christen Press also could be in the mix to provide a veteran presence in a youthful lineup.

The USWNT will return to the pitch on June 25, when the team takes on Colombia in the first of two friendlies. The CONCACAF W Championship kicks off on July 4.