As the U.S. women’s national team takes on Germany this week in their final two games of the year, they’ll be balancing further squad development and a positive result. The U.S. could use a win after their October trip to Europe yielded two straight losses. Meanwhile, the team has been settling on a preferred starting XI as they await the returns of a number of key players from injury in 2023.
If head coach Vlatko Andonovski views the Germany games as an opportunity for further squad evaluation, a handful of players could use the playing time to prove their value. The competition within the team will only grow as the months tick down to the 2023 World Cup.
Kornieck was something of a surprise addition to the USWNT’s Concacaf W roster in July, but her play with the San Diego Wave this year explains why the U.S. is interested in her skill set. Kornieck’s prowess in the air, particularly on set pieces, is somewhat obvious (she’s a towering 6-foot-1), but she’s also proven to be an impressive line-breaker with the ball at her feet. The U.S. is still figuring out what to do at the holding midfielder position when Lindsey Horan isn’t on the field, and after Kornieck missed the last international window with an ankle injury, she could use time to carve out a role.
The USWNT’s defensive midfield has been in need of answers in recent months, meaning the opportunity for Coffey to make her mark on the team has only grown. Coffey played well beyond her years in her rookie season and during the Thorns’ 2022 NWSL Championship victory, and she’s familiar with both a rigid and a free-flowing midfield philosophy from Portland. Coffey has been fast-tracked as one of the USWNT’s key options for the No. 6, and this week could be the time to solidify the concept.
Rodman is a generational talent, but she hasn’t had as much time with the USWNT attack as the other forwards vying for a spot in the team’s starting XI. In October, she played on the right wing while Sophia Smith filled in for Alex Morgan, but now that Morgan and Mallory Pugh are both back in the fold, Rodman has to figure out where she fits within Andonovski’s attacking rotations. She’s already an asset as a connecting player, and she bounces off the attacking midfield well. But if Andonovski feels his current starters need more time to build chemistry, balancing Rodman’s development at the international level becomes tricky.
Sanchez, like Rodman, is part of the USWNT’s present and the future. She was tasked with providing an attacking spark in the midfield at Concacaf W this summer, but she has featured more off the bench in 2022. Sanchez is a creative player who can be brought on to run at opponents with enthusiasm, but she hasn’t gotten a chance in games that require a stronger off-the-ball defensive plan. She’s also likely competing with Rose Lavelle for minutes, and Lavelle has been excellent in 2022. Getting a shot against a crisp midfield like Germany’s would be an indicator that Sanchez is ready to adapt to greater challenges.
Hatch quietly had another strong NWSL season in 2022, scoring nine goals for the Washington Spirit, but the USWNT’s reliance on the 27-year-old has waned in recent months. Alex Morgan has gradually overtaken Hatch in the role of post-up, central forward on the team’s depth chart, and Andonovski’s decision to play Hatch in just one half when Morgan was out with an injury in October raises a few questions about what happens when Catarina Macario returns to the team next spring. Hatch has had a knack for goal at the international level, and her level of inclusion this week could suggest where she sits on the USWNT depth chart.
I don’t envy the task of rotating the three USWNT goalkeepers through these games. Alyssa Naeher needs time to continue to gel with a new-look defense, and Adrianna Franch has more than earned another look on the field. But the development of Casey Murphy hasn’t been as linear as expected in 2022, and more big-game experience could be crucial for evaluation. Murphy obviously has the ability to be an elite shot-stopper at the international level (her matches against Australia a year ago were examples of her high ceiling,) but she’s also shown some nerves this year. With Franch making a surge, the competition at goalkeeper is more interesting than ever.
Three of the players on this list had rough club seasons with the Spirit this year, and Kristie Mewis likewise had a difficult year with last-place Gotham FC. Andonovski cited form when he left Gotham teammate Margaret Purce off the last two USWNT rosters, and Mewis has been competing for minutes off the bench with Lavelle and Horan tabbed as midfield starters. Mewis is very good in dead-ball situations, and her ability to chase a game late has provided a spark to the midfield in the past. But she needs to be able to showcase the form that got her back on the USWNT in 2021, with limited minutes to do so.
Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.