Vlatko Andonovski has now made the biggest call of his U.S. women’s national team coaching tenure.
After replacing Jill Ellis in 2019, Andonovski’s major tournament debut was delayed by a year but has now finally arrived in the form of the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Following the conclusion of the USWNT’s three June friendlies, Andonovski has now named his 18-player Olympic roster.
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Here are the 18 USWNT players heading to the Olympics.
MAKING THE CUT: Alyssa Naeher, A.D. Franch
MISSING OUT: Jane Campbell, Ashlyn Harris
Naeher is locked in as the starter but the pieces behind her have shuffled quite a bit in recent months.
Longtime backup Harris has been frozen out by Andonovski in 2021, which has opened the door for Campbell and, more recently, Franch to step in and fill the void.
Franch has returned to form for the Portland Thorns and as the team’s third-stringer at the 2019 World Cup, she has the experience advantage over Campbell. It may well eventually be Campbell’s job but for now, Franch was given the nod.
MAKING THE CUT: Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelley O'Hara, Crystal Dunn, Emily Sonnett, Tierna Davidson
MISSING OUT: Alana Cook, Midge Purce
Dunn, Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper and O’Hara make up the team’s starting back four, forming the backbone of the team. Center-back pair Sauerbrunn and Dahlkemper, in particular, are vital to nearly everything the team does.
Sonnett can play every position across the back line as well as holding midfielder, which will be crucial with Julie Ertz’s health a major question mark. Davidson can play those same positions, and Andonovski also gave her the nod as the youngest player on the roster at 22.
Purce, who can play fullback or either of the wide forward roles, was omitted in favor of more experienced options.
Cook is highly regarded and her time with the U.S. will come, but the writing was on the wall when she didn’t play in any of the team’s friendlies this month.
MAKING THE CUT: Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Kristie Mewis
MISSING OUT: Catarina Macario, Andi Sullivan
Ertz’s injury status is clearly a worry, but Andonovski still thought it was worth bringing her to Japan. The USWNT would be fine without her in the group stage, giving her an additional week and a half to recover if need be.
Andonovski appears ready to give Horan the first shot at replacing Ertz in the holding role, which makes some sense given her experience at the position and ability to start attacks from deep. But it’s not her most effective role. Andonovski admitted that the USWNT were “wasting some of her qualities she has at the six” against Nigeria, suggesting he’s eager to try other options.
Lavelle’s status is a slight concern after she suffered a minor ankle injury against Jamaica, while Sam Mewis is a must-start and will likely be utilized in a box-to-box role.
That left one more spot in the midfield, which went to Sam's older sister Kristie, who fully integrated back into the team following a long stretch without a call-up.
Macario, 21, was left out after she didn't quite show her game-changing potential in limited time with the USWNT.
Andi Sulivan, though a natural holding midfielder, is left off due to her lack of consistent involvement with the USWNT this year, combined with the team’s other options at the position.
MAKING THE CUT: Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Christen Press, Carli Lloyd
MISSING OUT: Sophia Smith, Lynn Williams
Morgan, Rapinoe and Press have the big-game experience and the current ability that made them locks for the roster. Heath also has that combination, but her health is a major question mark.
Heath hasn’t played a game since January and her inability to even fully participate in training before the Olympic team was named was a concern. In the end, though, her talent, combined with positive indicators from the team's health staff, gave Andonovski the confidence to put her in the 18.
Williams looked like a solid bet due to her speed and pressing ability, but her lack of end product appears to have cost her a place on the team.
Smith is undoubtedly talented but she's still just 20, and her sparse playing time during the USWNT’s three friendlies suggested she’s being eyed for the future.
MAKING THE CUT: Jane Campbell, Casey Krueger, Catarina Macario, Lynn Williams
MISSING OUT: Midge Purce, Alana Cook, Andi Sullivan, Sophia Smith