The timing is a bit unfortunate, falling on the day before the USA men tangle with Mexico to kick off the Hexagonal, but for the American women games against Romania this week offer a good look into the future.
Five of the six players that earned their first caps against Switzerland last month are back in camp for matches Thursday in San Jose and Sunday at StubHub Center. The games against Romania -- a national team the USA has never played – conclude the team’s 2016 schedule.
One of the five recalls is the only collegian on the roster, Stanford midfielder Andi Sullivan, who this week was named Pac-12 Player of the Year. Sullivan started both games against the Swiss and along with her first caps registered her first assist. Stanford earned a top seed in the NCAA Division I tournament and plays at home Friday night against Houston Baptist. Sullivan is expected to miss the playoff game.
Also debuting for the U.S. last month were defenders Casey Short and Abby Dahlkemper, and forwards Lynn Williams and Kealia Ohai, who both scored against the Swiss in record time. Williams, a halftime sub in the first match Oct. 19, tallied 49 seconds into the second half; Ohai tallied 48 seconds after entering the second game in the 81st minute.
Additionally, head coach Jill Ellis has named three uncapped players from NWSL teams: defender Emily Menges (Portland Thorns FC), midfielder Kristen Edmonds (Orlando Pride), and forward Jessica McDonald (Western New York Flash). McDonald and Menges were named as injury replacements for Jaelene Hinkle (ankle) and Meghan Klingenberg (back).
The newbies will compete for playing time with four veterans not summoned to face the Swiss. Back in the fold are defenders Julie Johnston and Ali Krieger, midfielder Megan Rapinoe, and forward Alex Morgan. The most notable absentee is captain Carli Lloyd, who is on her honeymoon after getting married in Mexico last weekend.
Romania is ranked 34th in the world and last month lost a playoff to Portugal for a spot in the 2017 Women’s European Championship. Switzerland did qualify for the Euros and is ranked 14th, which suggests the last two USA games of the year won’t be all that competitive.
“Our last training camp and games with Switzerland were extremely positive in regards to giving new players a chance to perform, continuing the process of deepening the player pool and fostering competition within the squad,” said Ellis of convincing victories by scores of 4-0 and 5-1 last month. “With this dynamic mix of players, we are looking forward to the environment and to finishing off the year on a winning note.”