Changing of the Guard: Boxx, Chalupny, Holiday Retire as Fresh Faces Appear

Stephanie McCaffrey celebrating with teammates after her first national team goal (Photo: US Soccer)

By MC Bousquette

The USWNT’s two friendly matches against Brazil over the past week marked the final games for Shannon Boxx, Lori Chalupny, and Lauren Holiday. They were each given a heartfelt sendoff over the course of the two matches on Wednesday and Sunday, which ended in a 1-1 draw and 3-1 US victory respectively.

But at the same time as these chapters are ending, new stories are being written.

Head Coach Jill Ellis notably named seven new players to the Victory Tour roster for the Brazil matches, taking a close look at her options for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Ellis expressed a clear desire to give these new players a shot at the upcoming pre-Rio camp; “Certainly they understand why they’re here and they certainly understand the door that’s being presented to them in terms of showing well and being here.

“For all of our players, it really is about trying to make that January camp. That’s the camp that the qualifying roster will come from. Between now and then is the opportunity for them to show well.”

And Ellis seems to be giving these players a chance to show what they’re made of. Instead of using them to bolster her bench strength, Ellis decided to give a number of these new additions meaningful playing time against Brazil, the highest ranked team the United States faces during the Victory Tour.

On Wednesday, Jaelene Hinkle replaced Kelley O’Hara at right back in the 71st minute of competition. Hinkle’s Western New York Flash teammate Samantha Mewis, who now has four national team caps, came on for Dunn at the same time. Both had a relatively solid twenty minutes on the pitch, particularly Hinkle, who had to find her legs quickly against the highly aggressive Brazilian side.

On Sunday, Ellis gave Emily Sonnett (University of Virginia) a trial by fire, as she played a complete ninety minutes at centerback. Sonnett took time to adjust to the pace and intensity of the Brazilian offense, her initial nervousness apparent in her slightly over the top physicality, but she eventually settled into her role supporting fellow centerback, Becky Sauerbrunn. She may be too green for the eventual Rio squad, but Sonnett’s play in the remainder of the match put her on the radar for future USWNT rosters. She returns to her UVA squad until the Victory Tour continues.

Lindsey Horan (Paris Saint Germain) recorded her first USWNT start, playing eighty minutes before being relieved by Amy Rodriguez. Horan, 21, passed up a scholarship at UNC to play at PSG. She was up and down the field all day, frequently present up top with Alex Morgan. Horan notably sent a dangerous header to goal, which was deflected to Crystal Dunn who finished the opportunity.

Stephanie McCaffrey (Boston Breakers), who trained with the USWNT last January, had a standout performance against Brazil. She entered for Tobin Heath in the second half, and found the back of the net with just moments left in the game off an assist from Megan Rapinoe.

Gina Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) came on for Ali Krieger in the 74th minute. Lewandowski and Krieger played together on FFC Frankfurt when the side won the Bundesliga in 2008. Lewandowski, 30, characteristically played on a veteran level, but choosing her for the USWNT would be a bit puzzling if Ellis’ true intent is to bring in younger players.

The only new addition who didn’t see playing time was Christine Nairn of the Washington Spirit, and she wasn’t named as an available substitute by US Soccer in their post-match report.

Crystal Dunn, the 2015 NWSL MVP who netted one against Brazil on Sunday, joined the roster back in September after participating in the pre-World Cup camp but missing the final roster. Dunn is surely one of the brightest hopes for the future of the US offense, and concluded the NWSL season with a league-leading 15 goals.

The USWNT has a short break between now and its next match on December 6th against Trinidad & Tobago, but expect to see more from these new names as the US takes the field in Honolulu, Hawaii.