The USWNT’s World Cup roster skews young which could give the US the stamina they need to outlast their opponents through the tournament or it could send them flailing from lack of experience. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski is taking a calculated risk with a young squad, but their absurd talent is indisputable and it is a choice I imagine few would argue with.
Even 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson, fresh out of high school, seems a logical choice now. She’s thriving with Angel City and with Mallory Swanson, Christen Press, and Catarina Macario out of contention, the USWNT could do with a fresh face in fine form up front.
The rest of the roster? It’s one wildcard after the next. Out of 23 players, 14 are playing in their first World Cup, two of which will likely be the USWNT’s starting center backs.
Captain and veteran center back Becky Sauerbrunn was taken out of roster consideration at the final hour due to a lingering injury which leaves the US lacking leadership on defense. Naomi Girma and Alana Cook at their strongest are an unbreakable force, and as fellow Stanford alums I have my fingers, toes, and eyes crossed for their success, but they’ll have to bring it every single game under immense pressure.
Can Ertz anchor the USWNT midfield?
The midfield could see a return to its former gritty glory with Julie Ertz on the roster. However, following the birth of her son, Ertz hasn’t played a match for club or country in years. She’s no stranger to the World Cup and could be the reliable linchpin the midfield needs. However, having only had three months to match her teammate’s game fitness levels and shed any lingering rust, it’s a big ask to expect her to contribute at the level she has in the past.
But Ertz isn’t the midfield’s only, or biggest, surprise. Savannah DeMelo has been called up for the World Cup having never had a single cap for the senior national team. She’s been called into camps and has torn up the NWSL, but she’s about to face a whole new ballgame. Having never seen her play for the USWNT I can’t say with confidence she’s ready for it.
That leaves the front line. With Sophia Smith and Alex Morgan headlining the front line, I’m not particularly concerned about how they’ll fare against the world’s best. After all, they arguably are the world’s best. The biggest risk lies with Megan Rapinoe.
Rapinoe has a list of accomplishments that could fill a book, but it’s been a long time since she’s been the forward the USWNT needs. Even this late in her career she possesses the talent and experience to make the odd game-changing field contribution, however I can only assume her contributions at this World Cup are expected to come in the form of off-field leadership.
With Becky Sauerbrunn gone, senior leadership is even more essential. But Kelley O’Hara, Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, and others can provide that, especially when pooling together their unique strengths. Why use up a valuable roster spot for a primarily off-the-field role?
Though the USWNT has been forced to reshuffle their roster late in the game due to injuries, so has nearly every other powerhouse team in the tournament. This final roster still exudes talent and features a healthy mix of crafty youngsters and tenacious veterans. Given the available options, it’s a roster I can live with and cheer on with vigor as they make their way through what will inevitably be a challenging World Cup.