Will the third time be a charm for the U.S. women’s national team program in 2016?
After the USA exited last summer's Olympics in Brazil in the quarterfinals, ending a streak of three straight gold medals, the USA was eliminated in group play of the U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan. Now it’s the U.S. U-20 women’s turn, at the U-20 Women’s World Cup (Nov. 13-Dec. 3) in Papua New Guinea -- and for two players the tourney will mark their second world championship of the year.
The 18-year-old Mallory Pugh played three games and scored once at the Olympics. The Colorado product played in the 2014 U-20 World Cup, at which the USA fell in the quarterfinals on PKs to North Korea, and is age eligible for the 2018 U-20 World Cup. Ashley Sanchez, 17, captained the U-17s in Jordan, where she scored three goals. Sanchez, the youngest player on Coach Michelle French’s roster, scored three goals, including the championship gamewinner, and had five assists at the Concacaf U-20 qualifying tournament.
The USA opens against France on Monday before facing Ghana and New Zealand in Group C.
USA Group C Schedule
Monday, Nov. 14
USA-France (1 am ET FS1, NBC Universo -- PT airs on delay at 3 am)
Thursday, Nov. 17
USA-New Zealand (4 am ET, FS1, NBC Universo)
Monday, Nov. 21
USA-Ghana (1 am ET, FS1, NBC Universo -- PT airs on delay at 3 am)
Of the USA's first-round opponents, only France has reached the semifinals, finishing third in 2014 and fourth in 2008. Ghana has qualified for the last three U-20 World Cups and failed to reach the knockout stage. New Zealand reached the quarterfinals of the 2014 tournament after exiting in the first round of its previous four appearances.
U-20 Women's World Cup History
2002: Champion USA. 2nd Canada. 3rd Germany. 4th Brazil (Host: Canada)
2004: Champion Germany. 2nd China. 3rd USA. 4th Brazil. (Host: Thailand)
2006: Champion North Korea. 2nd China. 3rd Brazil. 4th USA (Host: Russia)
2008: Champion USA. 2nd North Korea. 3rd Germany. 4th France. (Host: Chile)
2010: Champion Germany. 2nd Nigeria. 3rd South Korea. 4th Colombia. (Host: Germany)
2012: Champion USA. 2nd Germany. 3rd Japan. 4th Nigeria. (Host: Japan)
2014: Champion Germany. 2nd Nigeria. 3rd France. 4th North Korea. (Host: Canada)
U.S. U-20 Women's World Cup History
Year U.S. finish (U.S. coach)
2002 Champion (Tracey Leone)
2004 Third place (Mark Krikorian)
2006 Fourth Place (Tim Schulz)
2008 Champion (Tony DiCicco)
2010 Quarterfinals (Jill Ellis)
2012 Champion (Steve Swanson)
2014 Quarterfinals (Michelle French)
Players born on or after Jan. 1, 1996, are eligible for the 2016 U-20 World Cup. The U.S. roster is comprised of eight 1996s, eight 1997s, four 1998s and one 1999.
U.S. U-20 Women's World Cup team
GOALKEEPERS (3): Rose Chandler (Penn State; Atlanta, Ga.), Brooke Heinsohn (New England FC; Norfolk, Mass.), Casey Murphy (Rutgers; Bridgewater, N.J.).
DEFENDERS (7): Madeline Elliston (Penn State; Omaha, Neb.), Emily Fox (FC Virginia; Ashburn, Va.), Sabrina Flores (Notre Dame; Livingston, N.J.), Ellie Jean (Penn State; Coventry, Conn.), Natalie Jacobs (Notre Dame; Coto de Caza, Calif.), Taylor Otto (North Carolina; Apex, N.C.), Kaleigh Riehl (Penn State; Fairfax Station, Va.).
MIDFIELDERS (7): Marley Canales (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Katie Cousins (Tennessee; Forest, Va.), Savannah DeMelo (Beach FC; Bellflower, Calif.), Kelcie Hedge (Washington; Post Falls, Idaho), Emily Ogle (Penn State; Strongsville, Ohio), Courtney Petersen (Virginia; Canton, Mich.), Parker Roberts (Florida; Leawood, Kansas).
FORWARDS (4): Ashley Sanchez (So Cal Blues: Monrovia, Calif.), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Jessie Scarpa (North Carolina; Lakeland, Fla.), Ally Watt (Texas A&M; Colorado Springs, Colo.).
Fifteen members of the U.S. squad that won the 2015 Women’s World Cup had U-20 World Cup experience:
Morgan Brian (2012)
Julie Johnston (2012)
Sydney Leroux (*2004, 2008, 2010)
Meghan Klingenberg (2008)
Alex Morgan (2008)
Alyssa Naeher (2008)
Amy Rodriguez (2004, 2006)
Tobin Heath (2006)
Lauren Holiday (2006)
Kelley O’Hara (2006)
Ashlyn Harris (2002, 2004)
Megan Rapinoe (2004)
Becky Sauerbrunn (2004)
Lori Chalupny (2002)
Heather O’Reilly (2002)
* Leroux played for Canada at age 14 at the 2004 U-20 World Cup before switching to the USA.
2016 U-20 Women's World Cup: Complete Schedule
Very excited for our ladies to show the world what they can do at this competition. We are always led to believe that our country's clubs are churning out top players at every age, but the fact that 98's and 99's are on the squad suggests otherwise (no knock on those 5 players). There are hordes of girls at every age--you'd think there wouldn't be room for these younger players.
I watched the opening match against France. The quality was not what I expected. This is very much an amateur team, fit by college and club standards, but not match fit. The lack of fitness drives the tactics. Very few players could play both ways. The weather was not hot or humid enough to bother fit players, but would hinder overweight, sick or unfit players. Hard to see on TV but I think they played a classic 433 with 2 lines of 4 on defense. On the quick counterattacks, there was not a third runner. Holding the ball up was not an option because numbers would not have improved for the attackers. A good indicator of the fitness problem was that when the ball was won higher up the pitch, the attack was well supported. Play was somewhat better after halftime. Some of that was do to France tiring so space opened up. Besides the fitness (which meant that tired defenders were not closing down space like they should), first touch was worse than expected and far too many unforced turnovers of the ball, many times forcing a pass that wasn't there. Pugh was extremely good and played end to end when here team mates tired, but a team's ability is not measured by their best player. 90-minute fitness is not needed for college, but there is nothing stopping players from putting in the independent work to get closer to 90 minute fitness even if they don't get those minutes at their clubs and colleges and despite NSAA restrictions on team training. Either these women are being coddled or they don't desire to play professionally. If they have no professional aspirations, they are hurting the program by taking up space for those that do. The U20 national team is a development team, not the ultimate amateur side for a club player. It is not about the paycheck; it's about the attitude. Past time to make a decision.
Wow. I apologize for the many typos.
I should add that there were a few others who appeared fit and skilled besides Pugh, but too few.