Rampone may get one last chance at USWNT

rampone 2016

by TOM SLATER

Could this be Christie Rampone’s last chance — and really her first as well – to win one of the 18 roster spots on the United States roster as the opening ceremonies for the Rio Summer Olympics loom only a only a couple of months away?

Rampone is one of 25 players coach Jillian Ellis called into camp as the Americans prepare for two early June matches against Japan.  The team will begin camp in Denver on May 27 ahead of a June 2 exhibition against Japan at Commerce City, Colorado. The Americans also play Japan on June 5 at Cleveland.

The number in camp is larger than usual for a two-game series. Ellis’ reasoning is that she wants more time to play 11 v 11 in training. Obviously she needs more players to do that.

But for some players, including Rampone and fellow New Jersey native Heather O’Reilly, this could be the chance they need to make the 18-player roster.

Rampone hasn’t been with the United States squad at all in 2016 as she was recuperating for surgery to clean up her right knee right before Christmas. Her last appearance was on Sept. 3 in a 7-0 rout of Mexico. She played little more than a half and got arthroscopic surgery the following day.

She may turn 41 before the Olympics, but Rampone has recovered quickly and put in a full preseason with Sky Blue FC. Rampone, who might be a medical miracle, has performed ably for Sky Blue FC in all five National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) matches thus far.

“In my opinion, she hasn’t lost a step,” said Sky Blue FC coach Christy Holly during the pre-season. “She is fit and playing as strong as ever. I think she will get her chance with the national team once the season starts.”

Rampone, once the captain and a sure thing at central defender, will be looking to vie with Emily Sonnett as the backup to Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn, the two regular starters. Sonnett was the NWSL’s number one draft pick and plays for Portland as a rookie. Whitney Engen has seen more time with the national team lately as well.

O’Reilly’s status has been murky at best since the start of 2016. She was left off Olympic Qualifying roster and then put on the SheBelieves Cup roster in March. Her only action with the team was a 21-minute effort in a 7-0 friendly victory over Colombia in April.

She’s been a fan favorite since she burst onto the USWNT scene as a teen in 2002. Known for her speed, work ethic and intensity, she has been a fixture on championship teams with three Olympic Gold Medals and one Women’s World Cup.

Rampone will be one of two players making their 2016 debut with national side. Defender Gina Lewandowski is back for her second-ever cap after an October call up. She helped FC Bayern Munich sew up the 2015/2016 Women’s Bundesliga title.

It’s hard to read Ellis since her Women’s World Cup championship. Entering the tournament, she seemed content to stay with a veteran lineup and reluctant to try anything new. That changed in the quarterfinals against China and since then, she has fancied a younger lineup.

Whether Rampone and O’Reilly gets a real shot for one more piece of Olympic glory is hard to say. But unless they get meaningful minutes in two-game set, both look like longshots.

Missing from the roster is the 2015 Women’s World Cup hero Carli Lloyd. The midfielder, who scored three goals against Japan, is recovering from an MCL injury suffered last month playing for the Houstoh Dash.

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

GOALKEEPERS (4): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)

DEFENDERS (10): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Gina Lewandowski (FC Bayern Munich), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Wisconsin), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City)

FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)