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Projecting the USWNT’s Concacaf World Cup Qualifying roster

Sophia Smith celebrates a goal during the SheBelieves Cup. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

In the past seven months, the U.S. women’s national team roster has undergone a transformation.

For two friendlies against Australia in November, head coach Vlatko Andonovski named a 22-player roster that had 12 players with 10 caps or fewer. The following three camps featured many of the same players. Now, the new look could be the norm.

As the USWNT moves into the 2023 FIFA World Cup era with the Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers approaching in July, it’s time to get serious about the future of the USWNT roster.

The squad plays a pair of friendlies against Colombia on June 25 and 28, followed by the qualifying tournament a week later. The next roster, to be announced Monday morning, will be the most important one since the team that won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics last year. There is a chance the roster for the two friendlies will be different from the Concacaf squad, but by one or two players at most.

Fifty-nine players were named to the preliminary Concacaf roster on Wednesday. Andonovski has to cut that number to 23 for qualifiers.

It takes time for a team to build chemistry. With that in mind, it’s unlikely Andonovski will stray far from the players he’s called in throughout the last year. Here are the 23 players I think Andonovski will take to Concacaf World Cup Qualifying.

Forwards (7): Mallory Pugh, Sophia Smith, Ashley Hatch, Midge Purce, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Trinity Rodman

Midfielders (6): Andi Sullivan, Rose Lavelle, Ashley Sanchez, Kristie Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Jaelin Howell

Defenders (7): Sofia Huerta, Alana Cook, Emily Fox, Naomi Girma, Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Becky Sauerbrunn

Goalkeepers (3): Casey Murphy, Alyssa Naeher, Jane Campbell

Forwards

Andonovski somehow needs to evaluate the bottomless depth of the USWNT forwards, especially now that Alex Morgan and Christen Press are making strong cases for inclusion with their play in the NWSL.

To start, Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith are the two most obvious locks. Both players excel on the dribble and create big chances with their playmaking abilities. Add in the fact that Pugh leads the Chicago Red Stars with four goals and Smith is the Portland Thorns’ top goal scorer with three, and it’s impossible to think of any reasons why they wouldn’t be chosen for the USWNT’s Concacaf roster. Catarina Macario would have completed the trio up top, but she announced last week that she tore her ACL in Olympiuqe Lyon’s final match of the season.

Ashley Hatch seems to find the net every time she steps onto the field for the national team, including scoring the third-fastest goal in team history during her first start in November. The reigning NWSL Golden Boot winner has scored four goals in eight appearances for the USWNT and could be a good bench option for Andonovski when the team needs offense.

Midge Purce has been an impactful game-changer as an all-round player with a background in defending. The 26-year-old hasn’t missed a call-up opportunity in the last seven months, so it would be surprising to see her left off the roster now.

Morgan and Press are on the verge of a comeback. Morgan hasn’t been on the roster since September and Press since the Olympics last August, but both veterans have been proving their dominance on their club teams through the first few months of the NWSL season. Morgan leads the league in scoring with nine goals in nine games for the San Diego Wave, and Press has been a threat on Angel City FC’s frontline all season.

Press’ status for the roster is uncertain after she appeared to hurt her knee and was helped off the field in the 64th minute of Angel City’s win over Racing Louisville on Saturday. The club has yet to give an official prognosis, but whatever information Andonovski gets between now and Monday’s roster announcement could affect Press’ inclusion.

It’s also time for Trinity Rodman to get more experience with the USWNT. The 2021 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year attended her first senior national camp in January and earned her first cap at the SheBelieves Cup in February. The highest-paid player in the NWSL, Rodman will undoubtedly be a top candidate for the 2023 World Cup roster. Before then, the Concacaf tournament is the best way for her to get used to the high-stakes environment.

Midfielders

Playing in the 10, Rose Lavelle is the anchor of the USWNT’s midfield. Earning a spot on the NWSL’s May Best XI for her play with OL Reign, the USWNT’s 2019 World Cup hero isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Rising star and fellow attacking midfielder Ashley Sanchez also has a knack for creativity. With just seven caps, Sanchez has adjusted to the national team quickly, showing off fancy footwork and confidence on the ball.

Andonovski values Lindsey Horan as a leader for this young team and a stable presence in the center of the park. Another reliable contributor, Andi Sullivan helps set the pace from the six position, though she’s recently appeared on the Washington Spirit’s injury list for her quad.

Jaelin Howell, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NWSL Draft, gives the USWNT a double-sided six who’s had a fair amount of exposure to the environment in the last year. In just her fifth international appearance in April, she scored her first goal against Uzbekistan.

Typically subbed in to be a game-changer, Kristie Mewis has become a consistent call-up since Andonovski took over as coach at the end of 2019.

Defenders

Kelley O’Hara, Emily Fox and Sofia Huerta are all exceptional in contributing to the attack. Huerta is arguably the best at crossing balls into the box, and Fox has the ability to dribble comfortably through multiple opponents out of the back. O’Hara has assumed a larger leadership role in the past year, holding the team to its high standard of a competitive, winning culture.

Emily Sonnett brings a high level of intensity to the backline. She’s mostly played on the outside for the USWNT, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Andonovski to try her at center back, where she thrives with the Washington Spirit.

The NWSL’s most recent Rookie of the Month, Naomi Girma, has stood out on the Wave’s backline with nifty, effortless-looking tackles and an impressive 85 percent passing success rate. She’ll have to compete for a starting spot with Becky Sauerbrunn, the most fearless player on the team, and NWSL May Best XI member Alana Cook, a world-class defender with similar composure.

Goalkeepers

Casey Murphy and veteran Alyssa Naeher lead the USWNT’s deep goalkeeping pool.

Murphy wasn’t available for the April friendlies due to injury, but she’s made a strong case with the national team, starting with her first cap in November. In a 3-0 shutout over Australia, she made eight saves to earn Player of the Match honors and has been formidable ever since.

Naeher has been the most consistent veteran call-up since the new year and won’t be going anywhere after her jaw-dropping performances for the Red Stars.

Fellow veteran Jane Campbell has recorded four clean sheets in seven games for the Houston Dash. Thanks to her 86.4 percent success rate on saves, the Dash have allowed an NWSL-best three goals so far this season.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

Costa Rica Holds USWNT to 0-0 Draw in Frustrating Olympic Send-Off

USWNT midfielder Lindsey Horan dribbles the ball by Costa Rica forward Melissa Herrera and midfielder Gloriana Villalobos
The USWNT had 12 shots on goal on Tuesday despite failing to find the back of the net. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

The USWNT didn't quite get the going away party they were hoping for, settling for a 0-0 draw with Costa Rica on Tuesday in their final tune-up match before the 2024 Olympics kick off next week.

The US produced 26 shots — 12 on target — alongside 67 touches in the box, the most in any match where they failed to convert a single goal since at least 2015, per Opta. Yet they also faced a heroic performance from Costa Rica goalkeeper Noelia Bermúdez, who tallied 12 saves on the night.

USWNT starters remained mostly intact

After Saturday's win over Mexico, USWNT manager Emma Hayes opted for a very similar starting XI, only swapping Crystal Dunn in for Jenna Nighswonger due to load management.

Named starter Rose Lavelle was a late scratch from the lineup after team warmups, with US Soccer attributing her last-minute absence to "leg tightness." Lavelle was replaced by midfielder Korbin Albert, giving the US a slightly less aggressive attacking edge throughout the match.

Casey Krueger, Lynn Williams, Jaedyn Shaw, Emily Sonnett, and rookie Croix Bethune all got minutes in the second half, coming off the bench to contend with Washington, DC's brutally hot conditions.

USWNT forward Sophia Smith and Costa Rica midfielder Gloriana Villalobos battle for the ball
Costa Rica managed to fend off the USWNT with a strong defensive low-block. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY)

Costa Rica's low-block spelled trouble

"Listen, if you play a game of percentages or law of averages, we're creating more and more high-quality chances, and we're getting numbers into key areas — we're getting touches in the key areas," Hayes told reporters after the match, calling attention to Costa Rica's strong defensive low-block.

"The last part's the hardest part. And I'm really patient, because I've coached teams that have to break blocks down, and it's the hardest thing to do in coaching," she continued.

Hayes also noted the team's lack of training time under her management: The decorated coach officially joined the US in early June after finishing the WSL season with her previous club, league champs Chelsea FC.

USWNT pose for a picture after their send-off friendly against costa rica at Audi Field
The USWNT's Olympic group stage run kicks off on July 25th. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Where to watch the USWNT's Olympic games

Tuesday's draw is just the second time the USWNT has entered a major tournament off a non-win. Back in 2015, the US embarked on their legendary World Cup campaign after a 0-0 send-off draw with South Korea.

The next time the USWNT takes the pitch will be at the Paris Olympics, where they'll play Zambia on Thursday, July 25th at 3 PM ET. The match will be broadcast live on USA, with streaming options available on Peacock.

The Late Sub Podcast: This Is Sophia Smith’s USWNT Attack Now

Sophia Smith dribbles during the USWNT's 1-0 win over Mexico on Saturday.
Sophia Smith scored the lone goal in the USWNT's 1-0 win over Mexico last Saturday. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

This week, JWS podcast host Claire Watkins breaks down the days leading up to the first USWNT Olympic send-off friendly, discussing player performances, things that worked well on the pitch, and what still needs developing as coach Emma Hayes's team moves towards a crucial Olympic competition set to will dictate the future of the team.

She then sets her sights on the WNBA, previewing WNBA All-Star Weekend and chatting with Gatorade Women’s Basketball Player of the Year Joyce Edwards alongside Dallas Wings forward Satou Sabally.

Subscribe to The Late Sub to never miss an episode.

USWNT Looks to Extend Winning Streak in Final Olympic Send-Off

USWNT striker Sophia Smith dribbles through Costa Rican defenders during a 2022 Concacaf W Championship game.
The USWNT last took on Costa Rica at the 2022 Concacaf Championship semifinal. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The USWNT’s last tune-up match before the Olympics has arrived, with the FIFA world No. 5 US looking for an 18th-straight all-time win over No. 44 Costa Rica tonight at Washington, DC's Audi Field.

Just three days after a redemptive 1-0 victory over No. 29 Mexico, head coach Emma Hayes’s Paris-bound roster appears to be finding its stride. Calling Saturday’s win "a step in the right direction," Hayes went on to say, "I think we’re only scratching the surface. I think there’s a lot of layers to go from everyone."

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 13: USWNT coach Emma Hayes stands on the field before a game between Mexico and USWNT
The new-look USWNT is looking to hit its stride after several matches under Hayes. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Hayes's USWNT is still finding its footing

With their first Olympic group stage game against No. 64 Zambia slated for July 25th, the new-look USWNT — which features the youngest roster in 16 years — is working to define its style of play.

While the USWNT’s signature ability to score in transition remains a strong point, the team also acknowledged their shaky first half on Saturday, with midfielder Rose Lavelle commenting that they're "working on being a little more tactically flexible... We’re trying to, as a group, learn how to adjust on the fly and be a little smarter with our adjustments during the games."

The patience required to choose their moments, along with the team’s ability to read and anticipate each other's movements, is clutch to increasing effectiveness in the areas where the USWNT appeared most disjointed against Mexico.

At stake is an Olympic podium finish, where the US hopes to improve on their bronze medal performance in Tokyo — but the team also aims to make a splash amidst their increasingly sophisticated opponents.

Costa Rica captain Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez chases the ball during a match against Panama in 2020.
Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez, Costa Rica's captain, is the only NWSL on their Olympic roster. (Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Rodriguez leads a rising Costa Rica team

If improving offensive unity and production is tonight’s goal, Las Ticas could provide the ideal matchup: In their 17 previous meetings, the USWNT has outscored Costa Rica 90-2 overall.

That said, Costa Rica has switched things up since the sides last met in July 2022, with the US defeating the Central American squad 3-0 in the Concacaf Championship semifinal. Las Ticas competed in the 2023 World Cup and reached the Gold Cup quarterfinals earlier this year, where they narrowly fell to No. 8 Canada in extra time.

Costa Rica is captained by 30-year-old Angel City midfielder Rocky Rodriguez, the lone NWSL player on their roster and, in 2015, the first Costa Rica national to ever score in a Women's World Cup.

In addition to maintaining a perfect record against Costa Rica, the USWNT will look to extend their current unbeaten streak to nine, which includes three shutouts in Hayes’s first three matches at the helm.

Lindsay Horan drinks water before the USWNT's match against Ireland in April 2023.
An excessive heat warning is in effect for Washington, DC today. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images)

Where to watch the USWNT vs. Costa Rica friendly

Expect some hydration breaks due to DC's scorching temperatures during tonight’s 7:30 PM ET match, airing live on TNT and streaming on Peacock.

TruTV and Max will simultaneously air the first-ever USWNT altcast, hosted by retired USWNT star Sam Mewis, former USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn, and Men in Blazers founder Roger Bennett.

Sizing Up USWNT’s 2024 Olympic Competition

Germany's Giulia Gwinn steps to the ball while Iceland's Sandra Jessen slides in during Friday's UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match.
Germany lost their Euros qualifier against Iceland 3-0 on Friday, less than two weeks before Olympic football begins. (Hulda Margret/Getty Images)

With Olympic soccer kicking off in just over a week, the USWNT isn't the only national squad prepping for the podium with a series of pre-Paris matchups. Both international friendlies and important qualifiers are on the docket, with several European teams competing for a spot in the UEFA Women's EURO 2025.

Regardless of the stakes, these performances might provide some insight into what the USWNT can expect once the Summer Games begin.

Czechia national soccer team celebrates as Spain women's national soccer team defender Laia Aleixandri leaves the pitch
FIFA World No. 1 Spain fell to Czechia on Friday in a 2025 Euros qualifier. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Pre-Olympic matches expose problems for top teams

Of the 12 Olympic teams, recent outings from FIFA world No. 1 Spain and No. 4 Germany featured the most shocking outcomes.

Despite dominating possession behind an opening goal from 2023 Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí, the 2023 World Cup winners fell 2-1 to No. 30 Czechia in Friday's Euros qualifier — their first loss of 2024. They managed to bounce back on Tuesday, however, beating Belgium 2-0 to finish out the league stage on top with 15 points.

Spain heads into the Summer Games aiming to become the first women’s team to win a World Cup and Olympic gold back-to-back, though they’ll need to reclaim their composure to achieve that feat in the face of an Olympic group that includes Japan, Nigeria, and Brazil.

France defender Sakina Karchaoui celebrates her opening goal during Friday's 2-1 win over Sweden.
Defender Sakina Karchaoui scored the opening goal in France's 2-1 win over Sweden on Friday. (ARNAUD FINISTRE/AFP via Getty Images)

No. 2 France took down No. 6 Sweden 2-1 in Friday's Euro qualifier, but flipped the script on Tuesday with a 3-1 loss to last-place No. 25 Republic of Ireland, who notched their first win. However, thanks to England's 0-0 draw with Sweden — also on Tuesday — France still topped their qualifying group with 12 points. Les Bleus will look for more consistent results going into the Olympics, where they're set to face Colombia, New Zealand, and Guinea in the group stage.

But it was Germany who stumbled the hardest, losing out 3-0 to No. 14 Iceland in their own Friday qualifier. After the match, Germany's head coach Horst Hrubesch didn’t mince words.

"We have to assert ourselves from the start in the individual battles. The way we played just wasn’t good," Hrubesch told reporters. "We deserved to lose. We handed them all three goals on a plate."

Tuesday also saw improvement for Germany, as they routed Austria 4-0 to claim first place in the group standings with 15 points.

But the earlier loss was still foreboding for this German squad. The two-time world champions fell to 3-2 to Zambia just weeks before the 2023 World Cup, before failing to advance past the World Cup group stage for the first time in the tournament’s history. Germany also faces some tough Olympic group stage competition, battling Australia and the USWNT before crossing paths with Zambia once again.  

Team Canada celebrate their victory in the 2020 Olympic Gold Medal Match with Sweden
Team Canada has their work cut out for them if they want to repeat their Tokyo gold medal run. (Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Friendlies rally Olympic teams outside Europe

Defending Olympic champs FIFA World No. 8 Canada defeated No. 12 Australia 2-1 on Saturday, with KC Current forward Nichelle Prince and ex-Gotham striker Evelyne Viens both scoring in the friendly. Canada will play world No. 36 Nigeria in a closed-door friendly on Wednesday before kicking off their Olympic campaign against New Zealand on July 25th. 

For their part, No. 28 New Zealand drew 1-1 in a friendly with No. 64 Zambia on Saturday, while non-Olympic-bound Ecuador handed No. 22 Colombia a 2-1 send-off loss.

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