O’Reilly, Engen Picked by Ellis to US squad for SheBelieves Cup

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by TOM SLATER

Welcome back Heather O’Reilly and Whitney Engen.

Both veterans of the 2015 World Cup team who were left off the roster during the team’s 5-game sweep of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament are back on the roster for the 2016 SheBelieves Cup, which opens with a doubleheader next Thursday.

Both were named as part of a 22-player roster (19 field players and three goalkeepers) announced by United States Women’s National Team coach Jill Ellis today.  Engen and O’Reilly were two of three new players added to the Olympic Qualifying roster. The third is Seattle Reign FC defender Lauren Barnes, who got her first senior team call-up.

Stephanie McCaffrey is the lone player from the Olympic Qualifying Roster not selected for the upcoming tournament.

The omission of O’Reilly and Engen created a bit of a stir last month. Many thought both veterans should have been kept and had a chance to prove their worth and earn a spot to compete in the Rio Games this summer.

Instead, the Olympic Qualifying Tournament became a coming-out party of sorts for teenage wonder Mallory Pugh, former Paris St. Germain striker Lindsey Horan and Washington Spirit’s Crystal Dunn. It also saw the emergence of Kelley O’Hara as a regular at right back, with her natural attacking abilities more to Ellis’ liking than Ali Kreiger, a more solid defender but definitely a more stay-at-home defender.

The competition in the 2016SheBelievesCup will be significantly more difficult than the previous games. The Germans are ranked second in the world with France third and England fifth. The Americans, of course, are the top-ranked side in the world. This lineup makes the SheBelievesCup top four-nation women’s international tournament in the world this year and feature three doubleheaders in Tennessee and Florida.

How the United States lineup will shake out and what personnel moves Ellis makes is left to conjecture.

The 2016 SheBelieves Cup schedule:

March 3 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida (Germany vs. France and USA vs. England)

March 6 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee (France vs. England and USA vs. Germany) and

March 9 at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida (Germany vs. England and USA vs. France).

The USA’s first match against England will be broadcast on FS1 and its following two games against Germany and France will both be broadcast on ESPN3.

The winner of the tournament will be based on total points (three for a win, one for a tie), with the first tie-breaker being overall goal difference, followed by most total tournament goals scored, then head-to-head result and lastly (if necessary) FIFA Ranking .

U.S. Women’s National Team SheBelieves Cup Roster by Position:

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

DEFENDERS:  Lauren Barnes (Seattle Reign FC), Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), 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;  Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City)

FORWARDS:  Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)