Armchair Centerback: What Could a 50-Person USWNT Roster Look Like?

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Note: This was written before Jill Ellis’s 29 person USWNT roster was published. I stand by my roster picks.

Imagine a scenario:  Jill Ellis and USSF have parted ways. She is being replaced effective immediately.

In her place in a 28-year-old first-time coach who would give up a non-vital organ to have a functional back 4 again with an attacking half that could keep up its end of the deal.

Ok, so maybe that’s a dream too far. Jill Ellis is still the head coach of the USWNT and I’m a sports-writer who thinks about the defense more than I ever have about the attack. But I have ideas, I’m a thinker.

And one of the things I think about often, is just how limited Ellis is in her camp roster decisions. To the point that the existing framework seems to severely inhibit her creativity.  Even now, though the USWNT’s CBA has run out, contract law dictates that they will continue to play under its mandates until a new deal is inked. That means Ellis remains limited in the number of players she can call up at any one time.

But in the world I head coach in? The world where we have a little magic back in our passing game? Where our back five are still well-known as the one, the only Department of Defense?

The world that right now exists only in my head?

The sky is the limit.

And I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks thinking about what a 50-person USWNT camp would look like. The idea came about after seeing that the USMNT have larger camps than the women often do. (But the reasons for that a different article entirely.)

So if I had the keys to the kingdom, no limit to the number of players from the old CBA, everyone was healthy and free to be called in and a phone list of all of US players able to be called up, who would I call?

I’m glad you asked.


Goalkeepers:

  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride)
  • E.J. Proctor (Duke)
  • Haley Kopmeyer (Seattle Reign)
  • Jane Campbell (Stanford University)
  • Katelyn Rowland (Western New York Flash)
  • Michelle Betos (Portland Thorns)

First thing anyone will notice is that Hope Solo’s name doesn’t appear in my selection.

Listen, I’ve put her name on and taken it off of this list more times than USSF brought up her clean sheet record hunt in the lead-up to Rio last summer.

Call me a fangirl, call me delusional, call me stuck in 2008, maybe I am but there are few things in the world of soccer that make me happier than seeing Hope Solo stand in goal. But few things make me more nervous than the idea of her having an even bigger chip on her bionic shoulder as a new cycle starts in earnest. At the end of the day I decided that it was worth sticking to her suspension, which remains in effect until at least February, over having her in this camp.

So let’s talk about the goalkeepers I did decide to go with instead of the one that I didn’t.

As much as I think her future on the USWNT has come and gone I still think Ashlyn Harris provides useful training experience for some of the newer players. Between Harris and Naeher, the roster would have the stability of their consistency and experience to balance out the untested electricity that newer players bring into camp.

I think having Betos and Kopmeyer in camp as a reward for their solid NWSL play over the last few season makes sense with a camp this size. Adding in younger goalkeepers like Proctor, Campbell, and Rowland will give the coaches a look at some of the players who will likely be in line for a call-up when the next cycle begins in France in 2019.


Defenders:

  • Abby Dahlkemper (Western New York Flash) 
  • Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride)
  • Arin Gilliland (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)
  • Cari Roccaro (Houston Dash)
  • Carson Pickett (Seattle Reign)
  • Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Christen Westphal (Boston Breakers) 
  • Emily Menges (Portland Thorns)
  • Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns)
  • Erica Skroski (Sky Blue FC) 
  • Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash)
  • Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Kendall Fletcher (Seattle Reign) 
  • Lauren Barnes (Seattle Reign) 

Before the pitchforks come out I have Kelley O’Hara in this camp. But she’s in the midfield where she belongs.

And, for those of you still wielding farm equipment at me, no, I do not have Meghan Klingenberg on this roster. I think there are stronger candidates in the field. Maybe a year in the NWSL without much USWNT action will help get her back in form. But for me right now she’s on the outside looking in. (It’s funny, see, because she’s been playing at OB.)

It’s no secret the once-solid USWNT defense has had a few holes poked in it over the last year.  And it’s been coaching decisions–more than any opposing team’s attack could dream of doing–that have done the bulk of the dismantling.

I think one way to fix this is to bring in more defenders and more types of defenders to be used. Sauerbrunn and Krieger are the two most seasoned defenders we have and they are a much welcome force of calm and steady play, both in practice and in game play.  Short, Dahlkemper and Gilliland have all gotten a taste in the last few camps but I think we can bring in some of the NWSL’s talented and speedy defenders to help the defense reclaim its World Cup winning form.


Midfielders:

  • Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash)
  • Christina Gibbons (Duke) 
  • Christine Nairn (Seattle Reign)
  • Crystal Dunn (Chelsea LFC)
  • Danielle Colaprico (Chicago Red Stars) 
  • Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC)
  • Kristen Edmonds (Orlando Pride) 
  • Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns)
  • Margaret Purce (Harvard) 
  • Morgan Brian (Houston Dash)
  • Rose Lavelle (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash)
  • Sarah Killion (Sky Blue FC) 
  • Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns)
  • Vanessa DiBernardo (Chicago Red Stars) 

You can pick up the pitchforks again. No Megan Rapinoe. I didn’t think she should have made the Olympic roster and I haven’t seen anything in the months since that tells me she is ready to play at a national team level again.

Moving on.

The midfield has suffered from a decided lack of creativity and flow over the last year. With the likes of Holiday gone, Boxx retired, and Tobin Heath unable to be in three places at once (no matter how hard Jill tries) the midfield needs some help to get it back up to where we all know it can be.

O’Hara, as we’ve seen nearly every time Ellis put her in the midfield, is a better tactical fit in the midfield. While she can defend she is better as someone who attacks 70% of the time and spends the other 30% defending vs the other way around.

DiBernardo and Colaprico have managed in the last few seasons for Chicago really shown what a midfield pairing can look like. When both are on they are lights out. Bringing a little of that magic to the USWNT couldn’t hurt. Other NWSL players like Edmonds and Nairn have been talked about often as players who should be called up and I’d like to see it happen. And I’m all for brining some of the best the college game has to offer in to give them a look. 

There isn’t much else to say here. The US needs to adapt their midfield so the forwards aren’t on islands all of their own.


Forwards:

  • Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride, on loan: Olympique Lyonnais Féminin)
  • Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City)
  • Ashley Hatch (BYU) 
  • Ashley Sanchez (So Cal Blues)
  • Beverly Yanez (Seattle Reign) 
  • Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Jen Hoy (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Jess McDonald (Western New York Flash)
  • Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash)
  • Lynn Williams (Western New York Flash)
  • Mallory Pugh (UCLA) 
  • Shea Groom (FC Kansas City) 
  • Stephanie McCaffrey (Chicago Red Stars)

Forward is maybe the only current position on the USWNT that I am not overly worried about. The team has some major firepower with the likes of Morgan, Press, Williams, and Pugh. Rodriguez coming back from maternity leave only adds to the experience level.

Sanchez was one of the brightest spots in the U20 Women’s World Cup for the US. Hatch is another name that could make a big splash is given a national team stage to do so. 

Bringing in a mix of the NWSL’s best and brightest could only help the players grow and give some of the best forwards in the world a little more fire in their bellies than usual.


For comparison to my fantasy roster is the real USWNT call ups for the  actual USWNT camp from Jan 13 to Jan 23. 

GOALKEEPERS (4): Jane Campbell (Stanford), Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (7): Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (11): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Kristen Edmonds (Orlando Pride), Christina Gibbons (Duke), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Wisconsin), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC), Taylor Smith (Western New York Flash)

FORWARDS (7): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea Ladies FC, ENG), Jessica McDonald (Western New York Flash), Alex Morgan (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA), Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Lynn Williams (Western New York Flash)

2 thoughts on “Armchair Centerback: What Could a 50-Person USWNT Roster Look Like?

  1. Leaving Pinoe off is ridiculous. What do you expect, she has been recovering from a serious injury. Hello?

    1. I think you could expect some quality performance from her in the Olympics if she was well enough to be included on the roster, not to mention a good showing at the four+ friendlies they had afterward.

      Her play–when she did play, in league and on the NT–continued to be uninspired. I wouldn’t have included her on my Armchair list either.

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