USWNT opts for experience over youth for Olympics

Carli Lloyd and teammates, USWNT (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
Carli Lloyd and teammates, USWNT (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /
Carli Lloyd (No. 10) and her U.S. Women’s National Team teammates (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /

Playing in the Olympics is as grueling as it is exciting. Should the U.S. Women’s National Team reach the finals, they’ll be competing in six games in 17 days with a slimmed-down roster of only 18 players.

The USWNT Olympic roster was announced on Wednesday morning, and a quick scan of the list makes it obvious that head coach Vlatko Andonovski prioritized experience in major international competitions over the up-and-coming young talent he had to choose from.

Because of the challenging Olympic schedule and limited roster size, players that can play multiple positions, who are in peak physical form, and who have quick recovery times are incredibly valuable. For these reasons, it’s surprising Andonovski went with an older squad that also includes two players recovering from injuries.

The average age of the Olympic roster is 30.8. Carli Lloyd, who turns 39 just before the start of the Games, will make history as the oldest USWNT player to take part in the Olympics. Tobin Heath (33), Christen Press (32), Megan Rapinoe (35), and Alex Morgan (31) will join Lloyd on the team’s front line group. Together they make up the majority of the roster’s oldest players.

Will age and experience be an asset for USWNT?

There’s no denying there are advantages to taking an experienced squad, one that’s been through the trials and pressures of major competitions. They know what to expect, they know how to handle it, and many have left such tournaments with gold and championship medals around their necks. They’ve proven themselves time and time again, and while the team as a whole was not at their best in the Summer Series, many of the older players made equal if not stronger cases for themselves than the youngsters did.

As for the injured crew, Julie Ertz has been out since mid-May with an MCL sprain while Tobin Heath has battled ankle and knee injuries that has kept her out of action since January. While both are expected to be healthy enough to play by the start of the Olympics, it’s certainly a risk bringing two players who, even if healthy, are unlikely to be in top form.

For years now, Ertz has been considered an indispensable part of the starting lineup, and Heath will make the Olympic team for the fourth time (the most of anyone on the roster besides Carli Lloyd). Despite their history with the team, I have a hard time believing that there were no healthy players who would be safer bets than an injured Ertz and Heath. That being said, at the Olympics you are allowed to swap out injured players on the roster with alternates at any point before or during the tournament. This mitigates a lot of the risk involved in bringing them along.

Ultimately, Vlatko Andonovski had a choice: Give the young and talented future of the USWNT their chance at competing in their first major international competition at the senior level, or go with a formula you know has worked before. There were strong arguments on both sides. While there are aspects of the roster that give me pause, I also can’t say he made any wrong choices.

I do however find fault in the fact that Margaret Purce was not only left off the 18-player roster but was also snubbed from the alternate list. I felt she had strong showings with the national team this year, often being a bright spot in otherwise disappointing games.

The reality is you have to nitpick to find faults with such a dominant team. So, my qualms aside, the USWNT is heading into the Olympics with a strong team that unsurprisingly has an excellent shot of winning it all if everyone brings their “A-game.”

Next. USWNT lackadaisical vs Jamaica. dark

Goalkeepers (2): Adrianna Franch, Alyssa Naeher

Defenders (6): Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Emily Sonnett

Midfielders (5): Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Kristie Mewis, Samantha Mewis

Forwards (5): Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe

Alternates (4): Jane Campbell, Casey Krueger, Catarina Macario, Lynn Williams