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USWNT mock roster 2.0: Projecting the 2023 World Cup team

The USWNT has played its last game before the 2023 World Cup roster is announced in June. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

The U.S. women’s national team has wrapped up its final international window before the 2023 World Cup roster is named. Between now and June, players are hard at work with their club teams both in the NWSL and abroad.

USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski has made it clear that game minutes matter for roster selection, and he has been actively watching NWSL games, most recently catching two matches in the Pacific Northwest this past weekend.

As player performances and returns from absence become clearer, it’s time for a second stab at projecting Andonovski’s 23-player squad that will make the trip to New Zealand to try to repeat as World Cup champions.

Alyssa Naeher (Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Goalkeepers (3)

On the roster: Alyssa Naeher, Casey Murphy, Adrianna Franch

First player out: Aubrey Kingsbury

The USWNT goalkeeping position seemed all but wrapped up going into April, but a few NWSL performances have thrown just a shred of doubt into the mix. Naeher and Franch have each had touchy moments for their clubs in recent weeks. Franch wasn’t selected to start for Kansas City in their 2-0 win over the Orlando Pride this weekend, with backup keeper Cassie Miller getting the nod in her place. Also over the weekend, Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars allowed five goals against OL Reign on just five shots on goal.

There’s enough evidence piling up to make U.S. fans slightly nervous, but probably not enough to sway Andonovski from his pre-determined trio of goalkeepers, all of whom have necessary experience at the international level. Casey Murphy, though, might have a clearer road to competing for serious minutes rather than serving primarily as Naeher’s backup if she begins to look like the clear frontrunner in form.

Kelley O'Hara (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Defenders (7)

On the roster: Becky Sauerbrunn, Alana Cook, Naomi Girma, Tierna Davidson, Emily Fox, Crystal Dunn, Kelley O’Hara

First players out: Sofia Huerta, Emily Sonnett, Casey Krueger

Determining who makes the USWNT defense for this year’s World Cup is as much a numbers game as it is a reflection of individual quality. If the U.S. takes seven attackers, they can roster only seven defenders, meaning they can’t provide cover for every position on the backline. If Andonovski wants four center backs along for the ride, that limits his ability to have a relevant backup for every outside back and vice versa.

There are some things we know. Andonovski has indicated his current preferred starting defense is made up of Becky Sauerbrunn and Naomi Girma in the central defense, with Emily Fox and Crystal Dunn on the outside. That leaves others fighting for rotation spots. Tierna Davidson provides flexibility as a center-back/outside-back hybrid, and Alana Cook has gotten too many minutes in the team’s system to be dropped now. The question then lies on the outside, where the U.S. will surely need to rotate throughout the tournament.

The biggest question mark is whether Kelley O’Hara or Casey Krueger has displaced Sofia Huerta, a crossing extraordinaire in the attack but a player who could struggle defensively against top competition. O’Hara’s has steadily built her fitness back up to full 90-minute performances for Gotham in the early going of the NWSL season, and her experience could win out in crunch time. Emily Sonnett has been playing defensive midfield for OL Reign this season, indicating she might not currently have a foothold in the U.S. defense.

Julie Ertz (Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Midfielders (6)

On the roster: Julie Ertz, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Sanchez, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Kristie Mewis

First players out: Taylor Kornieck, Sam Coffey

Fans have long desired two clear defensive midfield candidates to make sure the USWNT midfield is as balanced as possible at the World Cup, and it seems their prayers have been answered. The USWNT is now likely to take two No. 6s in New Zealand, but they are not the two anybody expected. Julie Ertz’s return has flipped the team’s midfield dynamic on its head, with the 31-year-old providing a solid counter-option to Andi Sullivan depending on the team’s opponent.

The good news of Ertz’s return does spell trouble for other midfielders who have been auditioning for various roles, including Taylor Kornieck, who may end up on the outside looking in. Ashley Sanchez doesn’t provide as much versatility, but she’s clearly Rose Lavelle’s attacking midfield backup when the veteran isn’t available. And Kristie Mewis’ major tournament experience might be enough to secure her spot as the final midfielder on the plane to New Zealand.

Alyssa Thompson (John Todd/USSF/Getty Images)

Forwards (7)

On the roster: Alex Morgan, Sophia Smith, Lynn Williams, Megan Rapinoe, Catarina Macario, Trinity Rodman, Alyssa Thompson

First players out: Ashley Hatch, Midge Purce

With Mallory Swanson now sidelined with a serious knee injury, the U.S. has once again had to scramble to make sure all elements of the attack are covered by players with international experience. The good news is that the winger position is one of the USWNT’s deepest, with quality forwards still likely to just miss out on a trip to the World Cup.

Andonovski called teen phenom Alyssa Thompson up in the wake of Swanson’s injury, appearing to place her higher on the depth chart than Gotham winger Midge Purce. Thompson is still a work in progress, but she plays off Sophia Smith well positionally and has a defensive motor the team could need in a close knockout game. Megan Rapinoe has shown her quality on set pieces hasn’t abated in the latter stages of her career, likely becoming a candidate to help play left wing by committee in Swanson’s absence. Lynn Williams, a player built for Andonovski’s system, has also only solidified her place with an excellent run of form in the NWSL.

The other unknowable factor in the final attacking decision for the U.S. is the status of Catarina Macario, whose timeline for a return to competitive play gets slimmer by the day. Macario has fewer than five matches left in her club season with Olympique Lyon and hasn’t yet indicated a return to full training.

Ashley Hatch, meanwhile, has continued to perform in NWSL, scoring three goals in four games. Despite that, the Spirit forward hasn’t seemed to make much progress in playing time with the U.S. At this moment, I’m still betting on Macario’s promise over Hatch’s known qualities, though the balance between the two players shifts further toward Hatch with every passing day.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

Caitlin Clark Signs Multi-Year Deal with Wilson, Gets Signature Basketball Collection

caitlin clark poses with wilson basketball
Clark is just the second athlete to get a signature basketball collection with Wilson. (Wilson Sporting Goods)

Caitlin Clark has signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Wilson Sporting Goods that will include a signature basketball collection, the brand announced early Tuesday. 

According to Boardroom, Clark is just the second athlete to develop a signature collection with Wilson, with the first being Michael Jordan in the 1980s. In addition to her basketball collection, she will also "test, advise and provide feedback on a range" of related products. 

Three Clark-branded white-and-gold Wilson basketballs have already dropped. Each ball features laser-cut engravings of some of the guard's most memorable moments at Iowa, where she became the all-time leading scorer in Division I college basketball history.

Three Wilson basketballs from Clark's collection have already dropped. (Wilson Sporting Goods).

"I think it is super special, and it's been fun for me," Clark told Boardroom. "I feel like I was just that young kid who had those basketballs that I would store in the garage. I'm just very lucky and fortunate to partner with Wilson to create something that everyone can enjoy. It connects with a lot of generations, and it'll be fun to see kids walking around holding them."

The No. 1 overall pick at the 2024 WNBA Draft, Clark has been building up a slate of major endorsements since turning pro. Current partnerships include Gatorade and Panini, and she’s also close to signing a signature shoe deal with Nike worth a reported $28 million.

New York Liberty off to First 4-0 Start in 17 Years

sabrina ionescu of the new york liberty on the court
Sabrina Ionescu led the undefeated Liberty to a 74-63 win over Seattle Monday night. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty are 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2007. 

The 2023 WNBA title finalists notched a 74-63 win over Seattle on Monday night, with Sabrina Ionescu dropping 20 points alongside eight assists. After the game, Ionescu told reporters she thought the team was coming together a bit easier than they did last year.

"I think having a year together, we don't nearly have to communicate as much on the court anymore," she said. "Because we can just play off one another and read. And that's obviously been the growth of this team, is being able to play a season together last year."

The team’s defense has also contributed heavily to the season's winning start. Last night, the Liberty held Jewell Loyd to just 13 points and nine rebounds. Loyd let the Storm in scoring, with only two other players in double digits, while Nneka Ogwumike missed her second straight game with an ankle injury. 

Storm free agency acquisition Skylar Diggins-Smith had eight points, and is averaging 14.5 points and 5.8 assists per game this season. In her postgame remarks, Storm head coach Noelle Quinn called on others to give her grace in her return. 

"There needs to be respect about the fact that she's had two children and hasn’t played in 20 months," said Quinn. "She’s not going to come overnight and be who she was 20 months ago and we have to respect that and honor that. And I do.

"My grace as a coach is to know she’s working her butt off every day. You guys don’t see it. Every single day. Two children. Not one, two. Not many can do that."

Australia’s Sam Kerr Ruled Out for 2024 Paris Olympics With ACL Injury

sam kerr playing for the australian womens national team
A longtime Matildas mainstay, Kerr has made 128 appearances for Australia alongside 69 career goals. (Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Australia has confirmed that captain and star striker Sam Kerr will miss the Paris Olympics due to an ACL injury suffered early this year. 

Kerr, who also stars for Chelsea, tore her ACL in January. While unlikely that she would recover in time for the Olympics, Football Australia (FA) hadn’t confirmed her status until Tuesday when the team revealed its squad for upcoming warm-up games. 

In a statement, the FA said that Kerr remained on the sidelines and will continue her rehab program at Chelsea. 

"Attacker Amy Sayer (ACL) and forward Sam Kerr (ACL) remain on the sidelines with long term injuries," the report read. "Kerr and Sayer will continue their rehabilitation programmes in their home club environments and subsequently will not be available for selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games."

Tuesdays 23-player squad is a "strong guide" to the final Olympic lineup, according to coach Tony Gustavsson, but others like injured midfielders Katrina Gorry and Aivi Luik could potentially figure into the conversation. 

"[They] most likely will be physically available to be part of an Olympic roster," Gustavsson said of Gorry and Luik. "This window will be a tough one for me and my staff in terms of evaluating players, where they are, and then the final selection process for Paris."

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