U.S. Soccer named its roster for this summer’s Women’s World Cup on Thursday, but in doing so Coach Jill Ellis essentially acknowledged that her best hope for retaining the title is to trust many of the same players to repeat the feat.
Despite more than three years of experiments, tinkering and tryouts, a dozen members of the roster return from the 2015 team, including eight players who started in the Americans’ victory over Japan in the final in Vancouver.
Carli Lloyd, 36, the outstanding player at the 2015 tournament but now the oldest player on the team, made her fourth World Cup roster, and six players — including the likely starters Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara — will be taking part in their third.
Ellis’s picks included at least two surprises. The 34-year-old defender Ali Krieger, a key figure in the 2015 triumph who was phased out of the team by Ellis in recent years, was included, as was Morgan Brian, a midfielder who started four games in Canada four years ago but had fallen out of favor by 2018. Krieger went two years without an appearance for the national team until a surprise call-up for two recent friendlies. Brian hasn’t played for the team since January after two injury-filled years; she was the last player told she had made the squad.
In a conference call with reporters to discuss her selections, Ellis stressed the value of experience, and especially World Cup experience, in her decision-making. Krieger was just the most obvious example; only Lloyd (with 18) has more World Cup games under her belt than Krieger’s 13.
“One of the things about Ali Krieger is no moment is ever going to be too big for her,” Ellis said. “As a coach, when you get down to this point, there’s a psychological piece.”
The rest of the team, though, reads like a who’s who of national team regulars under Ellis: Morgan, Rapinoe, Heath and Christen Press at forward; Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle and Allie Long in midfield; Sauerbrunn, O’Hara and Abby Dahlkemper on defense. Even the 11 players appearing on their first World Cup roster — a group that includes Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn — are now seasoned international veterans.
Still, Ellis’s decision to lean so heavily on veterans — 11 members of the team are in their 30s; five have appeared in at least 10 World Cup matches — has left some holes. While she will take three goalkeepers to France, the position remains a major question mark for a squad that relied on Hope Solo in every major tournament for the last decade. And Dunn has suddenly become indispensable at left back, since Ellis’s roster includes no natural backup at her position. Tierna Davidson, a 20-year-old in her first professional season, is a more obvious fit at center back, as is Emily Sonnett, who has played right back for the national team but appears in the center for her club. O’Hara and Krieger’s experience, and value, is on the right.
The Americans will open the World Cup against Thailand in Reims, France, before facing Chile and Sweden to close out group play. Ellis will have three more chances to tinker with her team before then: The United States will host friendlies against South Africa (May 12), New Zealand (May 16) and Mexico (May 26) before departing for the World Cup.
The full roster:
Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch; Ashlyn Harris; Alyssa Naeher
Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper; Tierna Davidson; Crystal Dunn; Ali Krieger; Kelley O’Hara; Becky Sauerbrunn; Emily Sonnett
Midfielders: Morgan Brian; Julie Ertz; Lindsey Horan; Rose Lavelle; Allie Long; Samantha Mewis
Forwards: Tobin Heath; Carli Lloyd; Jessica McDonald; Alex Morgan; Christen Press; Mallory Pugh; Megan Rapinoe.