Jill Ellis released her 23-player roster today for the U.S. Women’s National Team heading to this summer’s Women’s World Cup.
Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC), Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers)
Lori Chalupny (Chicago Red Stars), Whitney Engen (Western NY Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Houston Dash), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)
Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Lauren Holiday (FC Kansas City), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
Sydney Leroux (Western NY Flash), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Abby Wambach (unattached)
With two extra roster spots for Ellis to play with this year, she was able to include a large portion of her typical roster. Meaning there are few surprises to this powerhouse lineup.
Possibly the strongest line for this team, Ellis has been blessed with a large striking pool. Any combination of these forwards can provide the team with versatile attacking options and an array of goals. No opposing defense will find it easy to cover any one of these five players, who, combined have tallied 311 international goals.
The question surrounds Wambach and her role for the team. It is unlikely we will see Wambach starting in many game this World Cup. Leaving the 34 year old the role of super sub. While Wambach can no longer provide her team much in the way of speed and quickness, do not doubt her lethal ability in front of net, especially off the set piece. Ellis stated that she was not concerned with Wambach’s decision to forego playing in any NWSL games leading up to World Cup.
The key for this line is to remain potent and hungry. Morgan and Leroux are both working their way back from injuries and have not looked sharp over the last few matches. The U.S. attack will need to tighten things up in front of net and capitalize on every opportunity.
Ellis has picked a solid midfield line-up that can provide on both sides of the ball, and nearly all bring previous World Cup experience.
Especially the surprise inclusion: Shannon Boxx, who will be playing in her fourth World Cup. No doubt the 37-year-old brings critical experience to the team, but she has only totaled 30 minutes of play this year, after a two-year sabbatical. It is unclear just how much Boxx will be able to play but Ellis is adamant that Boxx will be able to fill specific roles for the team.
“If it is about saving some legs and getting a couple of our center mids or one of them some rest, she can fill in in that capacity. It is the ability to have coverage in that position,” Ellis said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon. “The other part is being able to close out games. She is a very good defender in the air and I think Shannon can give us, not just depth, but some experience being able to close out big games.”
It will be interesting to see how this midfield will take shape, particularly in the center of the field. Ellis seems intent on playing Carli Lloyd, Lauren Holiday and Morgan Brian all at the same time. Often this has left the midfield looking disjointed and lacking effective flank play.
The U.S. will need to sort things out in the center of the pitch, as the team’s performance will heavily rely on the play of Lloyd, Holiday and Brain. The squad will also need find ways to effectively move up the pitch as a team into the attacking third. For Ellis this will be the next phase of camp.
“The piece moving forward will be going into the final third. I think if we look at the way we score goals, we recognize transition and now it is the execution piece. And if we are in build up, we continue to work on our combination play wide,” Ellis said.
Of the 25 players that attended April camp, only two cuts were made for the final roster. Ellis made both of those cuts on the defense by releasing Rachel Van Hollebeke and Crystal Dunn. Competition for both the outside and center back positions has been fierce, as multiple players have stepped up to fill the roles over the last few months.
No one has seen their stock rise more then Julie Johnston who has gone from barely making the game day roster to starting center back.
“With Julie the thing she was missing was experience, so the past few games where she’s played and she’s done very well, that’s now given me a comfort level. She handled herself in front of big crowds very well, dealt with tough opponents so for me she is ready and I think that is going to be a big decision in terms of center backs,” Ellis said.
All eight of these players have to potential to start for the U.S. and on the defense it will be critical for Ellis to strategically balance youth and experience.
There were many questions about Solo’s status with the U.S. team earlier in the year, but was there ever really a question that Ellis would not take the world’s No. 1 keeper? Solo will serve as the team’s anchor throughout the tournament and will mostly likely play every minute in net for the U.S.
Harris has gained some valuable experience over the last few months when Solo’s status was in jeopardy. While the 29-year-old still has room to grow, she will serve as a comfortable number two behind Solo.
Overall this is a solid roster with a good combination of depth and balance. While Ellis stated she only expects to use 14-16 players, this will be a long tournament for most players. The U.S. will need to rely on their depth if they want to remain strong through all seven games of the tournament.
Now that we know the 23 players traveling to Canada this summer it is time to ask the most important question: Are these the players that will bring the U.S. a World Cup?
Let us know what you think below!
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