By Paul Kennedy
Change comes slowly in women's
soccer. Jill Ellis
was no Jurgen Klinsmann
in picking her 23-player roster for this summer's Women's World
Cup. There was no chance she'd pull a JK and, say, drop Abby Wambach
like he dumped Landon Donovan
a year ago. Tom Sermanni
had begun to shake things up when he succeeded Pia Sundhage
in 2013, but the experimenting, if you'd
call it that, basically ended when Sermanni was fired four months into his second year on the job.
Ellis went big on experience in selecting her squad. It averages 101 caps per player,
and its average age is 28 years old.
Despite two coaching changes, 14 of the 21 Americans who went to the 2011 Women's World Cup return. Eleven of the 13 players who played in the final
against Japan are in Ellis' squad, the same number from 2012 Olympic gold-medal game.
The seven players who return from eight years in China are more than the six holdovers Klinsmann
brought back from the 2010 men's team for last summer's World Cup in Brazil.
Donovan's exclusion was a shocker, but there were a dozen other toss-up calls as Klinsmann first got down to
30 players for the Stanford camp and then to 23 for Brazil.
About the only question mark in the women's team was whether Ellis would take Shannon
, who had played just five NWSL games with Chicago last year and 33 minutes with the national team in 2014 and 2015, and if not, who between Crystal
and Rachel Van Hollebeke
would be dropped.
Ellis took Boxx and cut Dunn and Van Hollebeke. At
37, Boxx, who has battled lupus and gave birth to her first child in February 2014, will join Wambach in going to her fourth World Cup. (Christie Rampone
lone 99er still active, will outdo them both and go to her fifth.)
“In January, I started to see just how far she’d come,” Ellis said. “I think Shannon can give us
not just depth, but also some experience, being able to close out big games.”
If Klinsmann had taken Donovan, you'd have probably heard similar words from him, but he was no
Experience counts for a lot on the U.S. women's national team -- five players from the 1991 championship team in China were still playing 12 years later and Kristine Lilly
went on to play in a fifth tournament four years after that -- but it's youth that got the USA back in the game four years ago.
USA was trounced decisively in the semifinals of the 2003 and 2007 Women's World Cup, falling to Germany (3-0) and Brazil (4-0), it recovered with a series of epic matches in 2011 that brought women's
soccer to new heights in terms of popularity and entertainment value. A lot of that was due to the influx of young players like Alex Morgan
, Megan Rapinoe
and Tobin Heath
, who all brought a new dynamism to the U.S. game.
Youth will decide who gets to the top of the podium in Vancouver this summer in what shapes up to be a grueling tournament with the finalists
having to play seven games for the first time -- and all on turf.
Whether that's the USA with newcomers like Christine Press, Morgan Brian and Julie Johnston, or Germany with Dzsenifer Marozsan and Melanie Leupolz, or France with the likes of Claire Lavogez and Kenza Dani, only time