Where do the U.S. Women go from here?

usa team

by TOM SLATER

The Summer Games of Rio 2016 are over. We have a first-time champion in Germany, the new Olympic gold medalist. Congratulations to Pia Sundhage and her Swedish team on the silver medal. No one – especially not the United States team and fans – saw this coming. But Pia has her third straight Olympic medal.

Well, she would if they gave coaches medals — and they don’t.

And then there’s Canada – the bronze medal winner at the Rio Games and new champions of North America. And Brazil was a great host but Marta and her team walked away disappointed — again.

But what of the United States side?  Much has been written on what happened in Brazil.  Now what happens at home?

The only thing for sure is there won’t be a Victory Tour.

Luckily (or maybe unluckily), the United States has a little time before the next World Cup cycle begins. Although some players and fans may want to have another tournament to prove that the 2016 Games were a fluke. That Sweden got lucky. That the United States is still the best there is.

But there will be time to re-organize and get back on that path. International soccer is in-between cycles now with only the SheBelieves Cup tentatively on the radar.

So where do we begin to pick up the pieces?

Here’s three things to look for in the next 12 months:

Will Jill Ellis still be the coach? The answer to that question is the lynchpin to the program in the immediate future. She does have a multi-year contract that was signed after winning the World Cup in 2015. But that shouldn’t be a factor.

US Soccer needs to determine which Jill Ellis is the real one: the one that led the Americans through a sluggish opening group round to a statement-making victory over Japan to win the 2015 World Cup; or the one that orchestrated the United States to a boring and uninspired run in Brazil that ended up with the stunning penalty-kick loss to Sweden.

Ellis tried to put her face on the post-World Cup Victory Tour and run up to the Olympics. That meant freezing out Heather O’Reilly and saving a seat on the bus for Megan Rapinoe, who was recovering from injury. She did bring up Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn to the team but she also brought up Lindsey Horan and Allie Long.

Those didn’t work out so well.

She may get a mea culpa after winning the World Cup. Which is okay, if this all gets sorted out. Because there’s no major international competition coming up, there’s no need to make the decision now.

What will the team look like?  The current makeup of the team is in between ages. Many of the older players – Wambach, Holiday, Boxx, – have left on their own after the World Cup. Rampone walked away.  O’Reilly was forced out.  A vast majority of the current 18 rostered players will be in their 30s come the 2019 World Cup in France.

Carli Lloyd will be 37 for the 2019 World Cup. Hope Solo 38. Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn 34. All may be done with international soccer by that time. Even Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan will be in their 30s. Not old for international soccer but remember the women’s game makes it a two-year international cycle with the Olympics following the World Cup in successive years.

The new generation will be Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, Crystal Dunn and Christen Press, who will all be in their 20s when the World Cup come around again. Look for the new generation to also include Emily Sonnett, Danielle Colaprico, Sam Mewis, Ashley Sanchez, Stephanie McCaffrey and Jaelene Hinkle. All will be in their early to mid-20s during the next international cycle.

There may be other surprises that can be found currently playing in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

What do you do with Hope? She was once the world’s best goalkeeper. She still might be. However, we might not find out how good she still is, at least at the international level. While Solo is certainly wearing out her welcome with her mouth, her other skills may be falling off, which is more of a concern. The goalkeeper had an average Olympics. And only because she had a tremendous game against France. She looked abysmal against Colombia and got beat on one of the few challenges she had against Sweden. Although goalkeepers traditionally have longer shelf lives than field players, Solo may not get the chance to experience international soccer in her late 30s.

Trouble is, the cupboard is pretty bare. Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris aren’t young and haven’t been given much of a chance to prove they belong. Amanda Franch is the only young goalkeeper who has gotten a sniff with the international team and she doesn’t have a body of work yet.

The best thing about all of this is there are three years to sort this out.

 

  • Tebowisgod

    Its simple

    Ellis’s biggest mistake was somehow confusing the olympics as a rehab program for Rapinoe. That was a disaster.

    Everything else centers around the leader of the team Hope Solo.

    Sunil needs to talk to Solo if she is ok with Ellis going forward then Ellis can stay if not you cut her loose.

    what should they do with Solo? start her…every match, its pretty simple.

    Don’t Ryan Lochte this thing, Solo is the straw that stirs the drink on the USWNT. Without her they aren’t very entertaining at all.

  • FLwino

    Christen Press is actually about 6 months older than Alex Morgan, not younger. So she’s not really part of the new generation. On the other hand, Morgan Brian and Julie Johnston are about the same age as Crystal Dunn and likely part of that generation.