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USA women will bench some big names for February event

Los Angeles (AFP) – US women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski went with rising talents in naming a 23-player roster Thursday for this month’s SheBelieves Cup against the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Iceland.

Don’t, however, count out US stars like Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Christen Press being on the pitch when the Americans play for 2023 Women’s World Cup and 2024 Paris Olympic berths in July qualifiers in Mexico.

Andonovski went mostly with players from last month’s training camp in Austin, Texas, and wants to see more unproven talents in competitive matches as he considers his lineup for more crucial upcoming matches.

“We had a great camp in Austin and now we need to see this group of players in game environments against highly motivated opponents,” Andonovski said.

“Every player in the pool is focused on making the roster for World Cup and Olympic qualifying this summer and every training session and especially every match is a means to that end for them and for the coaching staff.”

The roster includes 11 players with 25 or fewer caps, but Andonovski says he’s not snubbing bigger names.

“All these players are very good players. We know that they’ve done so much for this team,” Andonovski told ESPN.

“But right now I want to give a chance to players like Sophia Smith and Mal Pugh and Catarina Macario, Ashley Hatch — players that have earned their spot on the national team or earn their spot back.

“I want to give them maximum minutes or whatever minutes they earn so we can evaluate every aspect of their game, in the training environment or game setting.”

The US women will face the Czechs on February 17 at Los Angeles in their SheBelieves Cup opener and meet New Zealand three days later before playing a final match on February 23 against Iceland at Frisco, Texas.

He wants the fresh look at rising talents because he will have the chance to watch players like Rapinoe and Morgan in National Women’s Soccer League matches closer to the selection time for this summer’s qualifiers.

“It doesn’t mean that all these players that have done well in the past are just going to come back here in the next camp because they’ve done well a year ago or two years ago,” Andonovski said. “They need to perform.

“They need to play well in their markets and show that they can still contribute and be valuable for the national team.”

The US women will try and qualify for the chance at winning a third straight Women’s World Cup title in July at the CONCACAF women’s championship in Mexico, which is also the qualifying event for the 2024 Olympics.

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