Without a world championship in 2017, the U.S. women's national team faces its biggest tests of the year when it meets Olympic gold-medalist Germany, England and France at the second annual
SheBelieves Cup. Almost all the tickets for the opening doubleheader featuring USA-Germany are sold. Here's a look at three keys to the tournament.
SheBelieves Cup: March 1 in Chester, Pa. England vs. France (4 pm) | USA vs. Germany (7 pm on FS1) March 4 in Harrison, N.J. France vs.
Germany (2:15 pm) | USA vs. England (5 pm on FOX) March 7 in Washington, D.C. Germany vs. England (4 pm) | USA vs. France (7 pm on FS1) All times ET.
Time for players to step up.
Head coach Jill Ellis called in only 12 players (seven of them starters) from the 2015 Women's World Cup team -- Megan Rapinoe, Meghan
Klingenberg and Abby Rodriguez remain in the picture -- so there has been a lot of turnover in the U.S. squad. This will a chance for the players who joined the team for the 2016 Olympics
-- players like Allie Long, Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh -- to cement their spots on the team.
With three games over seven days, there will be
plenty of opportunities for Ellis to get players in games, so relative newcomers like Casey Short, Emily Sonnett, Samantha Mewis, Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams
will need to step when given the chance.
2. Battle in goal
starts with Naeher vs. Harris.
Hope Solo, who held down the starting job at the last five world championships in which the USA was entered, says she wants another shot in goal. Her suspension has expired, but even if she was healthy --
she is covering from replacement surgery on her right shoulder last year -- it's hard to imagine her ever being called back.
The three keepers at the SheBelieves Cup are Alyssa
Naeher, Solo's backup at the Rio Olympics, Ashlyn Harris, also on the 2015 Women's World Cup roster and Jane Campbell, who just finished up at Stanford. Both Naeher and Harris, who
split the six post-Olympic games, should get starts.
3. Improved attack begins with Lloyd and Morgan.
The USA scored 34 goals in the six games after the Olympics, so
it can score. But how about against top-flight competition? It was let down at the Olympics, where it managed to score only six goals in four games and exited in the quarterfinals.
U.S. attack begins with Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan, who are both now in Europe for the first half of the year. Ellis said on Tuesday she is working with Lloyd on getting more looks on
the ball facing the opposing goal in order to take advantage of her open-field skills.
Morgan practiced with the team for the first time on Tuesday after returning from Lyon, where she
has had a frustrating first two months: playing just 208 minutes and scoring no goals. Ellis said Morgan, who had been battling a stomach flu, looked better.
TRIVIA. Morgan is one of 13 Lyon players -- in addition to 10 French and three Germans -- at the SheBelieves Cup. Lloyd is joined by eight new Manchester City
teammates on the England roster.
USA: Goalkeepers (3):
Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars). Defenders (7): 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) Midfielders (9): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath
(Portland Thorns), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), Carli Lloyd (Man. City/ENG), Allie Long (Portland Thorns), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Brianna Pinto (CASL) Forwards (6): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea/ENG), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage), Alex Morgan (Lyon/FRA), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (UCLA), Lynn Williams (NC
England: Goalkeepers (3): Karen Bardsley (Man. City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps
(Reading) Defenders (9): Laura Bassett (Notts County), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Man. City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Steph Houghton (Man. City), Jo Potter (Notts County),
Alex Scott (Arsenal), Casey Stoney (Liverpool), Demi Stokes (Man. City) Midfielders (5): Isobel Christiansen (Man. City), Jade Moore (Notts County), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott
(Man. City), Fara Williams (Arsenal) Forwards (6): Karen Carney (Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Man. City), Nikita Parris (Man. City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), Rachel Williams (Notts County),
Ellen White (Birmingham City)