Catching Up With The USWNT: Roster Release, Schedule and more

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

by MC BOUSQUETTE
Staff Writer

With the announcement of the U.S. Women’s National Team schedule and Friday’s roster release for the coming England and France friendlies, buzz surrounding the team has been on the upswing ahead of this year’s World Cup tournament.

Let’s catch up on where the USWNT has been, where they are going — and what to expect in 2015

On The USWNT …

The U.S. women have been a tremendous force in international soccer for several decades. The USWNT won the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991, beating Norway 2-1. One of the most memorable moments in the team’s history is surely the epic penalty shootout victory in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, resulting in a shirtless and victorious Brandi Chastain on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Former forward Mia Hamm is another name essential for any USWNT fan to know- she was named one of FIFA’s 125 best living players and was the recipient of the FIFA World Player of the Year the first and second times it was ever awarded. She is definitively one of the most important female figures of the past two decades in international sports. There are many more legends of the game, from Kristine Lilly, the most capped soccer player in the sport’s history, male or female, to Michelle Akers, who was named FIFA Female Player of the Century.

As years have gone on, the strength of the USWNT has continued, with the team finishing as runner up to Japan in the most recent Women’s World Cup. This summer, the USWNT, who were 16-3-4 in 2014, seek to continue the legacy under head coach Jill Ellis in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

2014 into 2015:

Jill Ellis USWNT2014 saw ups and downs for the USWNT, beginning with a difficult time in the Algarve Cup that saw the team finish a shocking 7th. Subsequent to the tournament, the USWNT has found a new head coach to replace Tom Sermanni; Jill Ellis, who has served as an NCAA coach and the 2012 interim coach for the USWNT.

The team saw initial bumps while adjusting to her style of play, but has seemed to steadily move back towards their groove as the year went on.

In later 2014, the USWNT put up a much stronger front, looking more like a World Cup squad with significant potential during the International Tournament of Brasilia in December and the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament.

Many of the USWNT starters put up steady numbers in 2014, with a few concerning, yet soon to be remediated injuries standing in the way.

The United States will need to be at the top of their game, as they have been drawn into a purported “group of death,” against powerhouses Australia, Sweden, and Nigeria.

Names to Know:

Abby Wambach…. is the all-time goal scorer for national team and contender for world player of the year. She will be an essential component of the team, as always, at forward. She netted four in the US victory against Costa Rica in the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament championship.

Christen Press… one of the most rapidly developing forwards and a young player to watch, appeared in 20 games for the USWNT throughout 2014. She’s starting more and more, and has simultaneously begun scoring more and more with 11 goals for the USWNT in 2014.

Alex Morgan…. is almost recovered from a severe ankle sprain, and is expected to play in the USWNT games against both England and France in February. The striker is one of the most important playmakers for the USWNT, both in goal-scoring and providing assists. She is one of two players in USWNT history to score 20 assists and 20 goals in one season; the only other to have accomplished this feat is Mia Hamm herself. If back at full health, Morgan is expected to be explosive for the squad.

Sydney Leroux… played for Jill Ellis at UCLA, is another striker who is sure to make a significant mark for the United States team. She has become another increasingly important part of the U.S. offense, and scored nine goals for the USWNT in 2014.

Carli Lloyd… is a dynamic center midfielder, with the ability to play just as well defensively as she does offensively. The 2014 campaign saw her score 10 goals and record eight assists.

Lauren Holiday… another veteran of the team who can easily flip between steady defense and threatening attacking playmaker at midfield, will continue her most recent role at deep midfield into the World Cup.

Megan Rapinoe… is the stalwart midfielder who should be another major presence on the squad. She’s out for a few weeks with a strained knee ligament, but the injury is described as minor. Able to play at both center and wing in the midfield, she will be needed as both a goal-scorer and set-up player with her ability to attack and assist.

Christie Rampone… is the USWNT captain, the clear defensive leader on the squad, and is the most-capped USWNT Olympian. At center back look for her to anchor the team’s defense throughout the World Cup.

And now for the goalkeeper question…

China v United StatesA fan-favorite and unquestionably the best goalkeeper in the USWNT pool, Hope Solo is in the midst of a deep personal struggle. After being acquitted of domestic violence charges in an alcohol-fueled incident, Solo returned to the squad, only to find herself with a 30-day suspension after being in the passenger seat of a US Soccer team van while her husband, the driver, was charged with a DUI. She will miss upcoming friendlies against France and England during her suspension.

Now, the President of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, has said that Solo may be left off the World Cup squad. In response to a question regarding a potential alcohol problem, Gulati said of Solo, “Neither one of us denied or confirmed that. Hope has been given time to deal with some issues … and there are a number of things she is being asked to do.”

Should Solo fail to make the World Cup roster, Ellis has three very strong options. Nicole Barnhart, Ashlyn Harris and Alyssa Naeher will find themselves contending for the first string spot. Though Barnhart has traditionally been the next in line for goalkeeper, Harris’ recent and excellent NWSL play creates a battle for the next in line. Not to be discounted, the youngest of the bunch, Naeher, was the 2014 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year with 40 saves in goal for the Boston Breakers.

USWNT Roster for coming France, England friendlies

The USWNT announced their 24-woman roster for a 13-day trip to Europe that will feature matches against France on Feb. 8 in Lorient (12 p.m. ET on ESPN2) and against England on Feb. 13 in Milton Keynes (3 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).

“These games are exactly what we need,” said Jill Ellis when the matches were announced. “Our goal leading up to the World Cup is to play some of the best teams. These are two opponents that will test us and certainly two teams we could meet in Canada. Both teams are exceptionally well-organized, have a high level of athleticism and will pose some excellent challenges.”

While the team will be without star players Megan Rapinoe, Christie Rampone and Hope Solo, they still feature the vast core of players from their three-week January camp, with Washington Spirit midfielder Tori Huster the only first-time call-up.

Here is the full roster:

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster By Position
GOALKEEPERS (3): Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City), Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers)
DEFENDERS (9): Lori Chalupny (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Whitney Engen (Western NY Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Houston Dash), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Rachel Van Hollebeke (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lauren Holiday (FC Kansas City), Tori Huster (Washington Spirit), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City)
FORWARDS (5): Sydney Leroux (Seattle Reign FC), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Abby Wambach (Western NY Flash)

Getting local:

If you’re in the New York area, mark your calendars now for May 30, 2015 at 4:30pm. The United States women will be taking on South Korea at Red Bull Arena!

Check out the full pre-World Cup schedule below:

DATE TIME MATCHUP VENUE
February 8, 2015 12 PM ET WNT vs France Stade du Moustoir; Lorient, France
February 13, 2015 3 PM ET WNT vs England stadiummk; Milton Keynes, England
March 4, 2015 2 PM ET WNT vs Norway Vila Real de Santo António, Portugal
March 6, 2015 12 PM ET WNT vs Switzerland Vila Real de Santo António, Portugal
March 9, 2015 1:30 PM ET WNT vs Iceland Lagos, Portugal
March 11, 2015 TBD WNT vs TBD
April 4, 2015 2:30 PM CT WNT vs New Zealand Busch Stadium; St. Louis, Mo.
May 10, 2015 11:30 AM PT WNT vs Ireland Avaya Stadium; San Jose, Calif.
May 17, 2015 6:30 PM PT WNT vs Mexico StubHub Center; Carson, Calif.
May 30, 2015 4:30 PM ET WNT vs Korea Republic Red Bull Arena; Harrison, N.J.
June 8, 2015 7:30 PM ET WNT vs Australia Winnipeg Stadium; Winnipeg, Canada
June 12, 2015 8 PM ET WNT vs Sweden Winnipeg Stadium; Winnipeg, Canada
June 16, 2015 8 PM ET WNT vs Nigeria BC Place; Vancouver, Canada