It’s the end of the calendar year for the U.S. women’s national team, with 2022 performances all wrapped up in a bow. Naturally, that also means it’s time for end-of-year report cards to evaluate how each player did in the run-up to the 2023 World Cup.
Again, a quick set of criteria: Despite the team’s first three-game losing streak in decades, the U.S. lost only three games total in 2022. A failing grade would indicate a player is wildly unprepared for the game at this level, which is not something we saw from the group playing the lion’s share of minutes this year. Likewise, an A+ indicates a player with all-star, team-on-their-back, best-in-the-world status.
Throughout this series, which will grade players by position, I’m going to avoid those who didn’t get minutes in 2022 and those who have missed significant time due to injury.
So far, we’ve graded the goalkeepers, outside backs, center-backs and defensive midfielders. Now, let’s take a look at the attacking midfield position.
This year was one of the most consistent of Rose Lavelle’s career for both club and country. No longer just a USWNT wunderkind, Lavelle is a tested and relied-upon veteran who found herself tasked with sparking much of the playmaking in the attacking midfield. She also had to track back and defend to overcome some of the team’s defensive midfield struggles. At times, she’d also drift wide to be available for overlapping services with both the winger and the outside back to her right when the players behind her were distributing the ball. If Lavelle ever faltered, it came from a desire to do too much, which is understandable with the amount of space she had to cover.
The common theme of Sanchez’s 2022 was that when she made her way onto the field, she brought new ideas and looked quite good. During the Concacaf W Championship, the U.S. frequently had to strategize around breaking down opponents’ defensive formations, and Sanchez playing alongside Lavelle as another creative playmaker paid dividends. But when the U.S. played teams with equally formidable midfields, Sanchez’s playing time dwindled. It’s hard to prove a negative, so all we can do is judge the Spirit midfielder on the game tape we did see, which demonstrated her value to the team.
I don’t want to project Mewis’ club season onto the international level, as the roles and skill sets vary, but it’s hard not to see how Gotham’s struggles in the NWSL might have affected the midfielder’s USWNT prospects. Mewis clearly provides a positive locker-room presence and a competitive edge that can supersede form in the right situations. She played more minutes early in the year as the team tried to find the right mix after an up-and-down 2021. But as Vlatko Andonovski leaned into his favored midfield in the second half of the year, it became increasingly difficult to see how Mewis tactically fits into a starting XI. If we’ve learned anything from Mewis’ career, it’s that she’s the poster child for a comeback, but she’ll need to show more in 2023 to compete with more established starters in their returns from injury.
Inviting Taylor Kornieck into USWNT camp was always a good idea. She’s strong on the ball in multiple midfield positions, she has a unique physical advantage with her height, and she craves good coaching. How the Kornieck project is coming along, however, is still a bit of a mystery since the 24-year-old was never put in a situation where she was expected to change a game as a substitute. Kornieck has been a consistent part of the U.S. roster since the Concacaf W Championship, but where she fits into the 2023 roster remains unclear. In 2022, she played just 121 minutes in seven appearances, as Andonovski’s substitution patterns never quite gave the opportunity for growth that fans might want for a young talent.
Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.