A competition for the starting goalkeeper spot appears to be brewing on the U.S. women’s national soccer team.
Casey Murphy, keeper for the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage, got the starting nod in the Concacaf W Championship opener against Haiti, while veteran USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher was in net for the team’s Thursday match against Jamaica.
The rotation in goal led to much speculation about who owns the starting goalkeeper spot for the USWNT and who will start in the squad’s final Group A game against Mexico at 10 p.m. ET Monday.
USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski declined to name a starter for the Mexico match when asked about Naeher and Murphy following Thursday’s game against Jamaica.
Case for Alyssa Naeher:
Naeher is an experienced goalkeeper with 81 USWNT caps and two World Cup titles to her name. The 34-year-old spent much of her national team career quietly making a name for herself as a backup to Hope Solo. Before 2015, Naeher had just one international appearance with the United States, and Solo played every minute of the 2015 World Cup run.
The 2019 World Cup served as Naeher’s breakout tournament on the world stage, with the Red Stars keeper owning the starting spot ahead of the team’s trip to France. Naeher quieted any speculation about her readiness for the bright lights of a World Cup, coming up clutch multiple times to help the USWNT clinch the championship.
Naeher again proved her poise in big moments in the Tokyo Olympics, saving three penalty kicks to seal a quarterfinal final win against the Netherlands and advance to the semifinals against Canada. The star goalkeeper’s Olympic run, however, ended in heartbreak, as she injured her knee in the team’s 1-0 semifinal loss to Canada.
HUGE save from Alyssa Naeher to deny Netherlands from the spot 👊(🎥 @NBCOlympics)pic.twitter.com/qKMWe5Jpd4— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) July 30, 2021
HUGE save from Alyssa Naeher to deny Netherlands from the spot 👊(🎥 @NBCOlympics)pic.twitter.com/qKMWe5Jpd4
Returning to the pitch in January after rehabilitation, Naeher is looking to solidify her starting spot again.
For Andonovski, Naeher offers a proven ability to make stops in high-stress situations and a veteran presence in the back. Naeher is a known quantity with the confidence to communicate with the backline.
Case for Casey Murphy:
Murphy exploded onto the scene in November with a magnificent USWNT debut, notching eight saves during the squad’s friendly against Australia.
The Courage star denied Sam Kerr multiple times, including with a stunning fingertip stop to clinch a clean sheet. The last player to log a shutout in their debut was Naeher in 2014.
.@CaseyMurph looking like a vet in her first cap 🧤 pic.twitter.com/2A6NIopzy5— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) November 27, 2021
.@CaseyMurph looking like a vet in her first cap 🧤 pic.twitter.com/2A6NIopzy5
At 26 years old, Murphy has tremendous upside that may be hard for Andonovski to ignore. She may not have the international experience Naeher does, but she has shown her ability to make difficult world-class-level saves.
Standing at 6-foot-1, four inches taller than the 5-foot-9 Naeher, her towering height in goal doesn’t hurt either.
The USWNT will finish their Group A play against Mexico at 10 p.m. ET Monday on Paramount+.