2015 WWC / USWNT / April 14, 2015

ANALYSIS: USWNT 2015 Women’s World Cup

By Rachael King

The 2015 USWNT Women’s World Cup roster was announced April 14th in the afternoon via FoxSports1. United States Women’s Nations Team (USWNT) alum Heather Mitts and Retired United States Men’s National Team defender Alexi Lalas were among the panel of analysts discussing the 23 player roster which has increased in size from 21 in the 2011 World Cup. Coach Jill Ellis and midfielder Megan Rapinoe were also available via video conference to answer questions from the panel.

They kicked off with the announcement of three goalkeepers: Hope Solo, Ashlyn Harris, and Alyssa Naeher. Considering recent events, it comes as a relief to most that Hope Solo was named to the roster. Solo was named as the best goalkeeper of the 2011 Women’s World Cup (WWC), and will be making her third WWC appearance bringing her much needed experience to the goalkeeper position. Ashlyn Harris has overcome her fair share of injuries to fight for her spot on the roster; she played in Solo’s absence earlier this year earning her second international career shut-out. “Words can’t explain how honored I am to represent my country on the highest stage… There is no time to celebrate or rest at this point. My dream is to win a gold medal and I will do everything in my power to bring that home to our country,” said Harris. The third and final goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher was named the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Goalkeeper of the Year in the 2014 season for her outstanding performance with the Boston Breakers. Naeher tallied a league and team record of 106 saves during the 2014 season.

Ellis Named eight defenders to the roster, most notably she made both required cuts to the roster in this position leaving out Rachel Van Hollebeke and Crystal Dunn. This is by far the least experienced piece of the roster with almost half of the players entering their first World Cup competition. Among the players named, Lori Chalupny has recently reentered the player pool after a five year hiatus. There has been some confusion and a bit of controversy as to why Chalupny was not added to the player pool sooner. She had not been called up to USWNT camp, however, was cleared to play professionally. She currently plays in the NWSL for the Chicago Red Stars and has played consistently since 2006, raising questions as to why she had not been called up to camp until Ellis’ tenure.

Whitney Engen, Julie Johnston, and Meghan Klingenberg will all be making their debut appearances at the WWC in Canada this summer. They will be joined by Christie Rampone who will be making her fifth WWC appearance, Ali Krieger (who suffered a concussion in the Washington Spirit’s first match of the 2015 season against the Houston Dash), Kelley O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn. Interestingly enough it appears as though Meghan Klingenberg will be making a position switch from her usual spot in the midfield. The back four has typically been the area of most concern on the roster. It will be interesting to see what decisions Jill Ellis will make in regards to strategy, and how well the back four can mesh in the next month before the tournament.

There were seven Midfileders selected: Lauren Holiday who was named 2014 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year, Shannon Box who has returned from time off due to knee issues in 2013, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, and newcomer Morgan Brian. This is debatably the strength of the roster. This midfield is dynamic and full of experience, speed, and ingenuity. What one player lacks, another has in spades. It can be described as no less than dangerous, and has quickly evolved over the last four years. Carli Lloyd, who has stepped into a leadership role wearing the captain’s band in four games in 2015, has proven her strike is vicious and refined. Megan Rapinoe and Heather O’Reilly are very capable of putting the ball in the back of the net from outside the box. Let’s not forget that Tobin Heath is known for her agility and technical ability on the ball. This is a force to be reckoned with and will be topped only by a more fit and adaptive opponent.

“I think we need to tidy things up a little bit. Just look at the past year there’s been a change in coaching, there’s been a change in line ups, and things are starting to narrow for us. Everything is coming together and I think our last game against New Zealand was a really good effort and a really good performance; it’s little things that need to be sured up. I think relationships are starting to build on the field, players are coming into form, and everyone can feel that energy building at this point,” midfielder Megan Rapinoe said when asked about what one change is necessary for the USWNT to win the 2015 WWC.

The final third of the roster is comprised of five players who are all brilliant and ruthless in front of goal. Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach, and Christen Press. Abby Wambach etched her place in history by becoming the all-time leading international goal scorer in 2013. She has taken time off from playing in the NWSL for the 2015 season to ready herself for the WWC this year, the last remaining piece of the puzzle for her gold collection. She has been chasing the WWC gold since 2001 when she made her first appearance with the full squad. With Alex Morgan’s ability to get in behind and stretch even the most compact defensive lines, and the precise service from midfielders like Holiday and Rapinoe this team has real promise to win the gold.

The ability to play smart and technically sound soccer will be imperative to the Unites States’ success in Canada. The attacking third has sharp finishers and the middle third is discerning and coordinated—expert at regaining possession. The weakness invariably lies in the defensive third, but with the leadership and experience they do have, any adversity can be overcome. So, why should we believe this is the USWNT that’s going to win it all? “It could be a combination of things: the pure talent on this team, I think we’re a very talented, very technical team with great athleticism so there’s balance there. I think always the intangibles with the U.S. I think our mentality, our grit our determination, certainly there’s a tremendous amount of desire in this group. I think how we play and some of the tools and depth that we have positionally…over the past 6 or 7 months we’ve been able to play a lot of players and give a lot of players experience so I truly feel that we’ve vetted these players through this and feel very confident and excited about the group we have,” says head coach Jill Ellis.

Win or lose, pride is in the American spirit and the supporters will stand behind them. No one can forget 2011. As for me, I don’t think the USWNT has any insurmountable weaknesses; to quote the American Outlaws, “I believe that we will win!”

2015 United States FIFA Women’s World Cup Roster By Position

Ashlyn Harris* (Washington Spirit)
Alyssa Naeher* (Boston Breakers)
Hope Solo*** (Seattle Reign FC)
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 FC)
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)

* First Women’s World Cup
** Second Women’s World Cup
*** Third Women’s World Cup
**** Fourth Women’s World Cup
***** Fifth Women’s World Cup

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