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The case for the most essential USWNT player: Rose Lavelle

United States midfielder Rose Lavelle (16) dribbles during the Nigeria versus United States Womens National Team (USWNT USA) game on September 06, 2022, at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Each month in the leadup to the World Cup, Just Women’s Sports will make the case for one player as most essential to the success of the USWNT in 2023.

Rose Lavelle burst onto the scene in spectacular fashion at the 2019 World Cup.

The midfielder’s low shot in the World Cup final served as a critical insurance goal for the U.S. women’s national team, helping the squad to a 2-0 win over the Netherlands and its second straight World Cup title.

Lavelle has remained a USWNT mainstay since her breakthrough run in France, evolving into a critical piece of the squad’s midfield.

The 27-year-old OL Reign star acts as the lever for the USWNT’s attack, injecting the squad with an offensive creativity unique to Lavelle.

World-class on the ball, she is known for her ability to take defenders one-on-one and create space with her talent in possession. She is particularly gifted in tight spaces, linking up with the frontline in the final third with ease.

Former USWNT coach Jill Ellis, who led Lavelle and the group to their 2019 World Cup trophy, praised Lavelle’s singular skillset.

“She’s an incredibly technical player, and we have very players to play off her,” Ellis told reporters in 2018. “But just her sense of awareness, of space…I think she just sees and reads the game very well, and she solves pressure exceptionally well.

“Her timing and just her cleanness on the ball is really special.”

What makes Lavelle so essential to the USWNT, however, is her ability to impact a game. When Lavelle is firing on all cylinders, the USWNT is on. When she isn’t finding touches or her place in a match, chances are the U.S. squad is struggling.

As a formidable presence down the spine of the pitch, Lavelle acts as the team’s connective tissue, often serving in dangerous passes to the forwards.

On the other side of the ball, Lavelle acts as a necessary defensive authority, winning the ball high up the pitch.

“Rose Lavelle is the best at defending in transition in the world,” USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski said in 2021. “There’s not a player that transitions as well as she does.

“And I know because of her creativity and because of how good she is on the ball or in possession, we don’t talk much (about) how good she is out of possession. But she’s not just world-class, she’s the best in the world in that situation of the game.”

So far in 2022 for the USWNT, Lavelle has four goals and six assists. Her assists mark puts her one back of team leader Mallory Pugh, who has seven.

As the United States midfield continues to develop without anchor Julie Ertz, who is out after giving birth to her first child in August, Lavelle has shown herself as an increasingly irreplaceable link on the field.

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