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The next USWNT No.1? Murphy makes case with huge Australia performances

6:00 PM WAT 30/11/2021
Casey Murphy USWNT
The 25-year-old turned in back-to-back standout displays in her first two national team caps against the Matildas

Does the U.S. women’s national team now have a goalkeeper controversy?

Perhaps it is too early to raise that question. At the very least, longtime starter Alyssa Naeher deserves every chance to show she is still the right person for the job.

But Casey Murphy’s USWNT debut was so good, it is hard to shake the feeling that that question will become more pertinent as the team ends 2021 and looks ahead to a year that could see plenty of roster turnover.

Murphy started both of the USWNT’s friendlies in Australia, earning her first and second national team caps. From the opening whistle in Sydney to the final whistle in Newcastle, it was clear that Murphy belonged.

“I tried to play it cool, but inside I was so excited,” Murphy said of getting the chance to start. “Obviously I've been training for a very long time for this chance and I just wanted to make the most of it for the team and for our country.”

The NC Courage shot-stopper did, indeed, make the most of her chance. The first game in particular, a 3-0 U.S. win, featured a number of highlight-reel saves that showcased the six-foot-one Murphy’s imposing wingspan.

In the second match, Murphy had fewer saves to make, but did produce another eye-catching stop in the first half that saw her tip a long-range volley onto the post with a sprawling dive. Only a cruel late deflection denied Murphy a second-straight shutout, as the Matildas drew the U.S. 1-1.

In both matches, Murphy also displayed a strong command of her box as she claimed crosses with ease and organized a back line that featured several inexperienced players.

“She just owned it,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “[She] gave a lot of confidence to the back line, gave a lot of confidence to the coaching staff too.”

Murphy’s standing in the USWNT goalkeeper hierarchy will now be a major talking point heading into 2022. Naeher has been the team’s starter for several years and was instrumental as the U.S. won the 2019 World Cup and earned bronze at the Olympics this summer.

But the continued development of Murphy could make Andonovski think hard about a changing of the guard. Naeher will be 35 by the time the next World Cup kicks off, and has shown just enough of a propensity for the odd mistake to leave the impression her grip on the job is not ironclad. 

Andonovski also has a history with Murphy, having signed her in 2019 when he was the coach of the team now known as OL Reign. Under Andonovski's watch, Murphy first emerged as a NWSL starter before the coach departed to take over the USWNT.

Murphy moved on to North Carolina ahead of the 2021 season, where she continued to establish herself as one of the rising stars of the American goalkeeper pool.

Long thought of as a future USWNT contributor, Murphy’s displays against the Matildas have shown she may be one for the present as well.

After Murphy’s USWNT debut, Andonovski said: "I feel comfortable saying that even though this is the first cap for Casey, it's going to be one of many."