Sky Blue’s O’Hara highlights 20-player USWNT roster

Kelley O'Hara leads Sky Blue against champions FC Kansas City, courtesy Sky Blue

by TOM SLATER

Sky Blue’s Kelley O’Hara was named to the 20-player camp roster as the United States Women’s National Team readies for the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in Frisco and Houston, Texas.

The USA opens the tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 10 against Costa Rica (8:30 p.m. EST). The Americans continue first-round action against Mexico on Saturday, Feb. 13 (4 p.m. EST), and finishes group play against Puerto Rico on Monday, Feb. 15 (8:30 p.m. EST).

O’Hara has been a staple on the United States Women’s National Team since 2011, when she was called up to replace Lindsay Tarpley, who tore he ACL in the send-off match against Japan. She came off the bench in the 2015 World Cup and her hustle and aggressive play kept her in the lineup. She scored an important insurance goal against Germany in a 2-0 semifinal victory.

As expected, former captain and Sky Blue defender Christie Rampone was not called into camp as she is still rehabbing from ACL surgery performed just before Christmas. Rampone is considered a long shot to make the roster.

Also conspicuous by her absence is New Jersey native Heather O’Reilly. The FC Kansas City midfielder was left off in favor of newcomers Lindsey Horan and Samantha Mewis. O’Reilly seemed to fall out of favor when Ellis was named as head coach. She played sparingly in the 2015 World Cup but seemed to be rejuvenated in the victory tour, scoring five goals.

O’Reilly played in three Olympics, winning three gold medals. She was also a member of two US teams that competed in the World Cup. She has 46 international goals.

Mallory Pugh, the teenager who scored her first goal in her first cap against Ireland, and defender Emily Sonnett, the No. 1 draft pick of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) last week, both were selected as Ellis seems content on changing the face of the squad. Pugh was likely helped by the announcement that Sydney Leroux was pregnant and wouldn’t be eligible for the Olympics.

Eight players on the USWNT roster have eight caps or less.

The U.S. will attempt to qualify for a sixth consecutive Olympic Games and win the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying event for the fourth consecutive time. In 2012, the USA won the Olympic Qualifying tournament in Vancouver, B.C. (at the same stadium where it would win the Women’s World Cup three years later) and then went on to win the gold medal in London.

U.S. Women’s National Team Olympic Qualifying Roster by Position:

GOALKEEPERS (3):

Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)

DEFENDERS (7):

Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (5):

Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash)

FORWARDS (5):

Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Stephanie McCaffrey (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)