Olympic qualifying: U.S. women add new weapons and new looks to already formidable team

The U.S. women's national team begins Concacaf Olympic women's qualifying Tuesday against Haiti in Houston with the expectation that it be in Japan this summer.

After all, the USA has played in four regional Olympic qualifiers and never lost a game. The goal difference in 19 games: 98-4.

Group A play against Haiti, Panama and Costa Rica should be a breeze. The deciding semifinal game on Feb. 7 in Carson, California, should be no problem, even if the opponent is likely to be one of the other two Concacaf women's  teams with both World Cup and Olympic experience: Canada or Mexico.

New head coach Vlatko Andonovski's message announcing his 20-player squad -- three less than Jill Ellis had at the 2019 Women's World Cup and two more than he'll be able to take to the Olympics -- was how competitive it is to make the national team and how he looking for versatility, both to work with a small roster but to expand on the tactical options he has to throw out.

“Making this roster was highly competitive,” he said in a conference call with the media. “The players came in ready physically [and] mentally to compete for every roster spot, and at the end, the ones that I believe will give us a chance to be successful and will give us the best chance to qualify for the Olympics are the ones that made the roster.”

Goalkeepers (3): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns; 3/-), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 24/-), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 57/-).

No change from the Women's World Cup goalkeeping corps. Naeher, who justified her selection as the No. 1 choice in France with a confident tournament, should be the starter. If the USA goes to the Olympics, Andonovski will only be able to take two keepers so Franch and Harris will have to make the most of the rare chances they get in goal over the next six months.

Defenders (6): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 53/0), Crystal Dunn (NC Courage; 96/24), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride; 104/1), Kelley O'Hara (Utah Royals; 125/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals; 171/0), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride; 40/0).

Andonovski is taking six defenders for qualifying and will likely take six to the Olympics if the USA qualifies. Tierna Davidson was the lone defender from the Women's World Cup team not picked. She was at the camp in Tampa but is still recuperating from an ankle injury. Julie Ertz can -- and will also likely -- move back into the middle of the backline.

Midfielders (5): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 95/19), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns; 78/12), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit; 38/10), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 60/14), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 15/0).

Breaking into the U.S. midfield will be difficult this year and into the next World Cup cycle. Ertz (the oldest at 27), Mewis (27) and Lavelle (24) started and dominated in midfield in the 2019 World Cup final. Horan (25) is the greatest player not to get off the bench in a Women's World Cup final. Sullivan got the nod over Allie Long and Morgan Brian, both backups in France, giving the USA another defensive midfielder in case Ertz is needed in the back

Andonovski likes both Long and Brian a lot -- he coached Long during two seasons at Reign FC -- but it came down to a numbers game. “We have six defenders, five midfielders and six forwards,” he said. “So the opportunities for the midfielders was a little bit less than forwards and defenders.

Forwards (6): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns; 162/32), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 288/121), Jessica McDonald (NC Courage; 14/2), Christen Press (Utah Royals; 130/51), Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC; 160/50), Lynn Williams (Western Sydney Wanderers/AUS; 21/6).

Photo: Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire
4 comments about "Olympic qualifying: U.S. women add new weapons and new looks to already formidable team".
  1. Michael Saunders, January 27, 2020 at 10:09 a.m.

    CONCACAF being what it is leaves little doubt that the USA will qualify.   In addition, I have enough faith in the Vlatko as the new NT Coach to make the critical choices for the roster,   I am pleased that he provided insight into his choices with his discussion regarding Pugh, Morgan & Davidson refreshing.    From my perspective, I agree with his decision to not include Long & Brian.  So his inclusion of Sullivan & Williams also makes sense,  

    What I have not been able to understand or find out regarding his rationale for not selecting Short.  She was a First team Best XI for her position at Left Back..... Does anyone know?

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, January 27, 2020 at 4:13 p.m.

    I don't know, but Dunn can play successfully at the international level at FB, midfield and forward. Since her junior year in college, Short has not played midfield or forward. 

    Look at Kelley O'Hara for comparision, the US WNT best right back. She is actually a midfielder for her club, also plays forward, winger and right back for them. With a restricted roster picking a player just to play left back is an unaffordable luxuary.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, January 27, 2020 at 4:17 p.m.

    In other words, Short is not the attacking threat that Dunn and O'Hara are.

  4. John Soares, January 27, 2020 at 3:07 p.m.

    Will the  The World Cup Champion games be on TV?
    Don't know exactly whom to blame.
    BUT, this is embarrassing!

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