With only a few games left before the U.S. women’s national team takes off for the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand, the final roster is slowly taking shape.

The USWNT has been dealing with the absence of a number of key contributors due to injury, making it difficult to foresee exactly which players might be pushed to the roster bubble in the next few months. But the team’s approach to the SheBelieves Cup this past week has offered some insight into head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s thinking.

If the U.S. were getting on the plane to New Zealand today, who would Andonovski select to the 23-player roster, tasked with defending the team’s 2019 World Cup win? Here is the first edition of our mock World Cup roster.

Adrianna Franch (Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)


Locks: Alyssa Naeher, Casey Murphy, Adrianna Franch

First players out: Aubrey Kingsbury, Jane Campbell, Bella Bixby

This position is fairly straightforward: Naeher and Murphy are the USWNT’s No. 1 and No. 2 goalkeepers, and Franch’s recent form should earn her the spot at No 3. NWSL action could sway that decision if Kingsbury, Campbell or Bixby start the season out strong, but Franch would have to slip in form to make room for any changes.

Kelley O'Hara (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)


Locks: Naomi Girma, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta, Emily Sonnett, Crystal Dunn, Emily Fox

First players out: Tierna Davidson, Kelley O’Hara, Casey Krueger

The first players out in this scenario could absolutely make their way to the World Cup, but the lack of recent game tape from Davidson, O’Hara and Krueger makes it difficult to select them if the tournament started today.

The player most vulnerable to being overtaken by someone coming back from injury is Emily Sonnett. The 29-year-old has played both center back and outside back for the U.S. in recent international windows, with Andonovski not committing her to either position. Davidson has similar versatility and might be considered a more stable presence on the backline.

O’Hara and Krueger are experienced defenders who will have an opportunity to push for the spot currently held by Sofia Heurta at right back. If O’Hara is fit, she’ll be on the plane, but she simply needs to show she can handle the workload. Krueger is probably one step further out, but she could get a look at April camp.

Catarina Macario (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)


Locks: Lindsey Horan, Andi Sullivan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario, Kristie Mewis, Ashley Sanchez, Taylor Kornieck

First players out: Sam Coffey, Jaelin Howell, Morgan Gautrat

The U.S. midfield is a complicated project, with Andonovski packing the roster with players who fill similar roles for their club teams as Lindsey Horan, who has appeared undroppable from the starting lineup in recent games. Andi Sullivan will likely be relied upon heavily in the defensive midfield, aided by a combination of Horan, Kristie Mewis and Taylor Kornieck.

Andonovski has said recently that he considers Catarina Macario to be an attacking midfielder, but the 23-year-old can also play at the point of the team’s new 4-2-3-1 formation. She’s the one player who has a seat on the plane to New Zealand regardless of fitness, though she’s very close to making her national team return after tearing her ACL last June.

The three players just outside the roster bubble are all defensive midfielders, as Andonovski doesn’t appear to have a true backup No. 6 in his plans. Sam Coffey and Jaelin Howell are both up and coming at the position, perhaps tabbed for tournaments in the future. Morgan Gautrat is an experienced holding midfielder at both the club and international level, but she hasn’t gotten much time with the U.S. while coming back from injury in 2022.

Christen Press (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)


Locks: Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Lynn Williams, Sophia Smith, Mallory Swanson, Trinity Rodman

First players out: Midge Purce, Christen Press, Ashley Hatch, Alyssa Thompson

Whether Macario is listed as a midfielder or a center forward will influence how many players are taken at each position, but her presence will influence the frontline selections no matter how she is designated. Ashley Hatch has served as the backup to Alex Morgan in Macario’s absence but will likely be the odd player out when Morgan and Macario are healthy at the same time.

Midge Purce and Christen Press both suffer from the USWNT’s incredible depth at the winger position. Purce hasn’t gotten significant time at the SheBelieves Cup, with Trinity Rodman and Lynn Williams getting starts at right wing. Rodman is an exciting connecting winger with a high ceiling, and Williams is arguably the player most integral to making Andonovski’s defensive press work.

Press is simply in a race against time, as she works her way back from an ACL injury that cut her 2022 season short with Angel City. The two left wingers in front of her are Rapinoe and Swanson, though the starting job will almost certainly go to Swanson if she’s fit. If Press can hit the ground running in March, she deserves consideration to return to the team in April. But if she has any setbacks in her recovery, she might run out of opportunities to make it back to the international stage in 2023.

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

The main message coming out of the U.S. national team’s 2022 debut is that the “new kids” are going to be alright.

Fielding the youngest starting lineup since 2018, the squad recorded a 0-0 draw against the Czech Republic in their first game of the SheBelieves Cup on Thursday.

There is still a ways to go in the process of building an effective 2023 FIFA World Cup roster, but coach Vlatko Andonovski said he’s happy with where the young team’s level is currently at.

The players showed flashes of chemistry on Thursday, especially between Catarina Macario and Rose Lavelle, and the quality of play will only get sharper as the team continues to train and play together. The NWSL starting in March will also be a game changer, as every player except Macario is only two weeks into preseason, with fitness levels nowhere near game ready.

Read on for the takeaways from game one of the SheBelieves Cup.

Calm in the center, chaotic on the flanks, and it works

The backline was an interesting but effective mix. Center backs Alana Cook and Tierna Davidson provided a steady, calm presence while the fullbacks were free to run wild. Somehow, at one point, right back and team captain Kelley O’Hara ended up in the left corner of the attacking third. 

O’Hara, starting left back Emily Fox and second-half sub Emily Sonnett demonstrated an impressive level of comfort in carrying the ball through opponents, sending crosses and starting plays in Czech’s half. 

In the center, Cook and Davidson held the composure, producing 90 and 85 percent passing completions, respectively. Andonovski says he expects them to play together a few more times, at least, going forward. 

Veteran Becky Sauerbrunn, who came on in the second half for her 200th cap on Thursday, will be subbed with Davidson throughout the tournament. Sauerbrunn has a limit of 95 minutes of playing time in the SheBelieves Cup.

Trinity Rodman has steady first USWNT performance

The 2021 NWSL Rookie of the Year made her long-awaited USWNT debut, subbing on for Mallory Pugh in the 61st minute. Right away, she added energy to the pitch and threatened the backline after getting an early chance on goal.

Rodman is already known as one of the best playmakers in the NWSL. Against Czech Republic, she sent a familiar ball into the 18-yard box for her Washington Spirit teammate Kelley O’Hara, almost identical to the game-winning play that the two made in the league championship in November when O’Hara buried a header goal off a long lob from Rodman.

The 19-year-old has strong work ethic and natural talent, and as Becky Sauerbrunn says, “Anyone with eyeballs can see that.” But it’s clear Rodman will need at least a couple more matches with the national team to really settle into her groove and do the damage everyone in the NWSL knows she’s capable of.

“I was excited to see her,” Andonovski said of Rodman against Czech Republic. “I know the players around her were excited to see her there. I just think this is the first of many for her, so she definitely needs more minutes, more caps, more games and I have no doubt that she’s going to perform even better.”

Honorable mentions for Sophia Smith, Kristie Mewis

While Catarina Macario and Woman of the Match Rose Lavelle had the most impact in the attacking third, Sophia Smith and Kristie Mewis also made a difference in energy and creating opportunities.  

The first 21st-century-born player to be named to a USWNT roster, Smith made her 11th cap on Thursday. She impressed with her hunger and ability to create goal-scoring opportunities for herself, even though she often hung back to complement O’Hara’s forward runs.  

Subbing on for Morgan Gautrat at the start of the second half, Mewis made creative plays almost at the level of the Lavelle-Macario duo. Her passes should become more effective once the other midfielders and forwards have had more games together and time to get on the same page.

Hopes for Sunday

In the USWNT’s next game on Sunday against New Zealand, it would be good to see Aubrey Bledsoe, Ashley Hatch and Sofia Huerta get some playing time, and to see the midfielders sharpen their positioning to be more dangerous and to create more opportunities for themselves and teammates. 

Bledsoe, the 2021 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, is the only player on the roster without an international cap. Casey Murphy played in goal on Thursday and, as she has in all three of her caps, impressed everyone. At this point, it’s clear she can handle the high-pressure environment of the world stage. Now it’s Bledsoe’s turn.

With the US having a tough time breaking down Czech Republic’s low block, it might be worth giving Hatch a turn in the nine or a forward position, considering she’s the reigning NWSL Golden Boot champion and third-fastest goal scorer in USWNT history after scoring in 24 seconds against Australia in November. 

Sofia Huerta fits seamlessly into the USWNT’s fullback style of pushing up the field and contributing crosses. 

Next up: the USWNT plays New Zealand at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. The game will be televised on ABC.

United States women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski has his sights set on the future, filling the roster for the SheBelieves Cup with young players and budding talents. Eleven of the 23 players who will take the field when the U.S. opens the tournament against the Czech Republic on Thursday night have 10 caps or fewer.

The coach is intent on giving opportunities to players with the potential to make the USWNT’s World Cup qualifying roster this summer.

“This a group we want to see more of in camp,” Andonovski said. “We want to give them a chance to be in our system and we want to give ourselves a chance to evaluate them, not just in camp but also in camp with games.”

Andonovski will have much to evaluate in the attacking third, in particular. Ashley Hatch, 26, started to make her case in Australia in November when she scored two goals in two games against the Matildas. She buried the first one just 24 seconds into the USWNT’s opening match, making it the third-fastest goal in team history. At the SheBelieves Cup, 26-year-old Midge Purce and 21-year-old Sophia Smith will also look to prove themselves up top.

“It really challenges you,” veteran midfielder Andi Sullivan said of Andonovski’s decision to bring in young talent. “I think he’s just been consistent in what he’s looking for from people here, people in the league, and I think just constantly raising the level no matter where you are and who you are, and that there’s always an opportunity.”

While Andonovski originally left the three most inexperienced players — Trinity Rodman, Jaelin Howell and Naomi Girma — off of the roster following January camp, he added Rodman and Howell after veterans Lindsey Horan and Abby Dahlkemper were ruled out due to injuries.

It’s been clear that Andonovski values NWSL performances. Look no further than the fact that seven players on the USWNT’s SheBelieves Cup roster come from the reigning champion Washington Spirit.

The roster’s readiness

Andonovski said Wednesday that, while most players are not ready to play all three 90-minute games of the round-robin tournament, Catarina Macario is in peak shape. The sole member of the team not in the NWSL, Macario is deep into her season with Lyon, while her U.S. teammates started their preseason just two weeks ago.

“It’s very obvious when you see her on the field, when you see her in training, that she just looks a little bit sharper with things that I’m pretty sure all the players are going to get once we get more training,” Andonovski said.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the coach play Macario in the midfield in all three games to set a high bar and maintain a consistent game flow.

On-field relationships

One of the USWNT’s main goals with the SheBelieves Cup is to strengthen the relationships among players on the field.

A few pairings Andonovski mentioned are Tierna Davidson and Alana Cook in the back, Macario and Rose Lavelle in the midfield, and Sophia Smith and Mallory Pugh up top.

“These are players we believe need to spend time together so they can strengthen their relationships that we’ve seen in training, that make us believe if these relationships get stronger or they get to know each other better, that we’ll be more than successful with this team,” he said.

Camp environment

With so many new faces on the roster, it’s fair to wonder whether practices have been as competitive without as many veterans to set the tone. Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara are the USWNT’s highest-capped players in the SheBelieves Cup.

It may take longer for the chemistry to build, but overall, the players say it’s been business as usual.

“I think the really special thing about this team is all the personalities and the history, and that they’re all interwoven together,” Sullivan said. “So I think the standard for this team is so high no matter what, and that’s due to the culture that’s been built for decades, so I feel like there’s not a lot that’s different.”

Three names to note

Of the 11 young players on the team, the one to watch for in this tournament is Trinity Rodman. Along with Spirit teammate Aubrey Kingsbury, Rodman has yet to earn her first USWNT cap after declining an invitation to Australia in November. After a standout 2021 NWSL campaign, in which she won a championship with the Spirit and Rookie of the Year, the 19-year-old will finally get a chance to prove herself in an international game setting.

With 87 caps, two-time FIFA World Cup champion Morgan Gautrat is appearing on her first game roster since November 2019 against Costa Rica, Andonovski’s second game as head coach. The center midfielder played a key role in the Chicago Red Stars’ run to the NWSL finals last season, starting all 24 games in which she appeared. There is much at stake as Gautrat makes her long-awaited return to the national team and uses the opportunity to make her case for a spot on the 2023 World Cup roster.

Kelley O’Hara is a veteran leader on the team who’s stuck around despite the recent influx of young national team prospects. On both the USWNT and the Spirit, O’Hara is known for being fiercely competitive, setting the bar high, speaking her mind and expecting nothing less than the best from her teammates. The defender’s energy will be critical to the team’s success this week.


Joining the U.S. in the tournament are the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Iceland, squads Andonovski called “very, very good, quality teams.”

The U.S. will need to tap into another level of sophistication in order to break down their opponents’ defenses, since all three of these teams are very organized when they don’t have possession. If successful, the U.S. will be in line to win its third consecutive SheBelieves Cup title.

USWNT vs. Czech Republic
Thursday, 11 p.m. ET

USWNT vs. New Zealand
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET
ABC, PrendeTV

USWNT vs. Iceland
Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET
ESPN, PrendeTV

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

When Manchester United announced that Tobin Heath would be sidelined for 10-12 weeks with an ankle injury sustained in training, a significant blow was dealt to both the Reds and the U.S. Women’s National Team.

With the forward now rendered out for the next three months of the FAWSL season and the SheBelieves Cup, replicating Heath’s impact will prove a daunting task for both teams. But what exactly makes Heath an irreplaceable asset, and how will her loss be felt around the league?



As early as her college days, Tobin Heath was a standout player. Committing to the University of North Carolina in her junior year of high school, the up-and-coming star would go on to leave a lasting mark on the college soccer world. In her freshman year alone, she made 23 appearances for the Tar Heels, scoring four goals and assisting nine. In her sophomore and junior year, she combined for ten goals and thirteen assists, before wrapping up her senior season with five goals and ten assists.

With Heath’s help, UNC won three NCAA Division I championships in 2006, 2008, and 2009, as well as four ACC titles. Throughout her four years in Chapel Hill, Heath played alongside several future USWNT teammates, including Allie Long, Ashlyn Harris, and Jessica McDonald. She was also named the first runner-up for the MAC Hermann Trophy, an award presented to college soccer’s top player.

Upon concluding her impressive college career, Heath was selected first overall in the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) draft by the Atlanta Beat. Unfortunately, Heath suffered an ankle injury in her third appearance with the team and missed the remainder of the season. She was later traded to Sky Blue FC, where she appeared in twelve matches for the team.

Upon the folding of the WPS, Heath spent time with the New York Fury and Paris Saint-Germain before finally landing with the Portland Thorns in 2013, where she quickly established herself as a franchise cornerstone.



In 70 appearances for the Thorns, Heath netted 13 goals and assisted another 21, all while leading Portland to two NWSL championships in 2013 and 2017 and an NWSL Shield in 2016. She also earned her fair share of individual awards, being named the NWSL Championship MVP in 2013 and recognized as a member of the NWSL Best XI in 2016, 2018, and 2019.

After Heath was left unprotected in the NWSL’s latest expansion draft, her rights were taken by Racing Louisville FC. Should she choose to leave Manchester United and return to the NWSL, she’ll be suiting up for the upstart franchise after a legendary stint with the Thorns. But though her NWSL achievements are impressive, they still pale in comparison to her accolades with the USWNT.

The 32-year-old has appeared in 169 matches for her country, in which she has scored 33 goals and logged 40 assists. Since making her debut with the USWNT in 2008, Heath has won two Olympic gold medals and two World Cup trophies, as well as two championship titles in the SheBelieves Cup. As a result of her efforts, she was named the US Soccer Female Athlete of the Year in 2016.

Needless to say, Tobin Heath has proven to be a valuable asset to any team fortunate enough to have her on their roster. This was especially evident when she joined Manchester United in September, her impact nearly instantaneous as she has notched four goals and two assists in only eight matches played.

As one can imagine, the news of Tobin Heath’s ankle injury took the soccer world by storm, leaving many to wonder not only who would step up to fill the void in United’s offense, but whether Heath’s injury would cost the club a chance at competing for a title.

Hopefully, some of these fears can be laid to rest following United’s handling of Everton last weekend, with goals from Christen Press and Ella Toone securing the 2-0 victory.



United has relied on Heath’s quick thinking on and off the ball, as well as her ability to execute passes that lead to scoring opportunities, a skill she has only sharpened over the years. In eight appearances with the Red Devils, Heath boasts a 72.7% passing completion rate overall, completing 173 of 238 attempted passes.

Despite her ability to set up her teammates, it’s Heath shot which remains her most potent weapon. This year alone, she’s scored multiple jaw-dropping goals in a United uniform, some from beyond the eighteen.

It is likely that fellow United teammates Jess Sigsworth, Lauren James, Leah Galton, and Christen Press will shoulder the responsibility of accounting for Heath’s absence up top. Likewise, Press, Lynn Williams, Megan Rapinoe, and Carli Lloyd will be expected to take on a similar task during the SheBelieves Cup. Though the USWNT is full of elite talent, there is no player quite like Tobin Heath, and the pressure is on for Vlatko Adonovski as he searches for a placeholder.



The domino effect of Heath’s injury certainly doesn’t end with the USWNT. In order for Manchester United to remain competitive in the FAWSL title race, Casey Stoney will also need someone to rise to the occasion… and fast. With a long road to recovery ahead, Heath is not expected to return to the pitch until April at the earliest. And though Manchester United has held onto their winning ways for now, they were recently leapfrogged by Chelsea for the top-spot in the league.

As the regular season progresses, Heath’s absence has the potential to drop United even further. But if they can at least keep pace with the other top FAWSL squads, Heath’s return could power the team on a closing sprint for the title.