Kickbacks: Five Things about the Roster for Russia

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Earlier this morning, US Soccer released a 24-player roster in anticipation of the Women’s Team’s upcoming friendlies against Russia.

The two-leg set will open in Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX on April 6, and be followed-up with a match on April 9 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, TX, a homecoming game of sorts for Houston Dash players Morgan Brian, Kealia Ohai, Carli Lloyd, and 2017 draftee Jane Campbell.

Included in the roster are:

24-player roster of call-ups for April 2017 matches against Russia

As we look at the roster, some things are immediately apparent.


Keepers: No Hope Solo

Solo’sĀ suspension from the USWNT concluded in February, and she is eligible again to be called into camp by Ellis. However, having undergoneĀ shoulder surgery in late 2016, the long-time US #1 is only partially through the rehabilitation process. Her absence on the roster could indicate that Jill Ellis and US Soccer really have moved on from Solo or that she is not yet cleared and ready to return. Ellis, on her part, has been mum about her intentions toward the goalkeeper even with Solo’s declaration that she wants and expects to return.

Alyssa Naeher (Chicago), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando), and Jane Campbell (Houston) have all been called back into camp for the friendlies. With Solo out of the pictureĀ right now, Harris and Naeher are neck-and-neck for the top spot at the moment, with Naeher probably having just the slightest edge over Harris after being named to the Rio roster while the Orlando Pride GKĀ was relegated to the Alternates list. Campbell, on the other hand, seems to be in for a great period of mentorship under the two during the drive towards France in 2019, and it wouldn’t surprise us to see her slowly earning caps over the next two years. Will we see her take the field against Russia? Probably not as a starter, but I think it’s probably a good bet we see her take the pitch in the 46′ if the US has–as they should–built up a good lead.

The Backline: Allie Long, Midfielder, and Megan Oyster’s First Call-Up

Despite being played in the centerback position of Ellis’ experimental three-back backline, Allie Long (Portland) continues to be listed in the midfield on the released rosters. This could be because, say it with us now, Allie Long is a midfielder. She’s not comfortable in the backline–much less as being the pivot or anchor that stabilizes and directs the shape of the backline. Continuing to list her as a midfielder seems like a concession to those of us who don’t see a future for her in the three-back system.

In a related note, Megan Oyster (Boston) has been called into camp for the first time. Oyster is a consistent centerback who played that roleĀ for Washington until the recent off-season when she was traded to Boston. Oyster’s performance for Washington was fairly solid but she was benched when the Spirit suffered a bit of a lag in the 2016 season and then continued to sit when Ali Krieger and Shelina Zadorsky returned from national team duties in Rio. Oyster was a part of the starting XI in the Spirit’s failed bid for the NWSL championship last October, where she played centerback in a three-back that featured Krieger and Alyssa Kleiner (and sub Caprice Dydasco) on the wings.

What does Oyster’s call-up mean for the team? Could be a couple of different things. First, of course, it could represent a return to the four-player backline that held the US up throughout the 2015 road to their third Women’s World Cup. With Julie Johnston (soon to be Julie Ertz) out of the roster for her wedding and honeymoon, Oyster and Sauerbrunn could find themselves the center of a classic four-back formation.

Or, it could mean that Ellis’ experiment with Allie Long is finally over, and she’s exploring other options to anchor her three-back. Oyster did very well in that formation for the Spirit in 2016’s final match, with Ali Krieger on her right running up the wings to move the ball and even make some attacking moves. A three-back with, say, Krieger on the right, O’Hara on the left, and Oyster in the center? Now that’s something I’d really love to see.

Midfield: The Return of Rapinoe

When Megan Rapinoe (Seattle) was left off the roster for the 2017 She Believes Cup, there were people (including us) wondering if her career with the national team was over. Certainly it was in jeopardy after last year’s performance, where she failed to make an impact in her two games off-the-bench in Rio, as well as the few later friendlies in which she was rostered. And, of course, there was also the stir she made by supporting Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest during the National Anthem, taking a knee on the sidelines at a friendly against the Netherlands in September. With the official position of US Soccer made public earlier this month in a billboard announcement during a She Believes Cup match, it seemed as if Rapinoe’s absence had a bit of a sharp edge to it.

But, maybe we all assumed too much? Because Rapinoe is back, and just before the NWSL season where she’ll take the field for the Seattle Reign again too.

Forwards:Ā Rodriguez Back, Still No Leroux

Amy Rodriguez (Kansas City) has been called back to the third consecutive camp of 2017 after taking time off in 2016 to give birth to her second son. Rodriguez was left off the finalĀ roster for the She Believes Cup in March,Ā but this latest call-up would suggest that Jill Ellis isn’t counting her out at all as the team moves forward toward the next WWC cycle. Sydney Leroux (Kansas City), also out in 2016 for the birth of her first child, has been training hard with FCKC as well but hasn’t yet received a call-up to return to camp with the national team at this point. This is in no way to suggest that her international career is over either, of course. We fully expect to see her back in the USWNT lineup when she’s ready. Both, it needs to be noted, talliedĀ a goal in FC Kansas City’s recent preseason match againstĀ Missouri Women’s Soccer, so there’s no doubt that both players are eager to lace up their boots and drive up their numbers.

One name that has made a return to the roster is Kealia Ohai (Houston). Ohai made her senior team debut just last fall, in a friendly against Switzerland at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. Ohai took the field in the 82′ and scored her first international goal just 48 seconds later, breaking a record set by Lynn Williams (North Carolina) set just days before (Williams’ goal was 49 seconds after she took the field for the first time in the 46′). Ohai’s breakout season with the Dash last year–scoring nine goals in seven games–earned her a look from Ellis and the senior team, and we anticipate that she will continue to find the back of the goal at both levels of play.