Olympic Countdown: Macario's USWNT battle begins, Lloyd and Rapinoe return, Sauerbrunn named captain

The countdown to the 2021 Olympic women's soccer competition begins on Monday when the USA hosts Colombia in the first of two friendlies played at Orlando's Exploria Stadium.

Vlatko Andonovski brought in 27 players for the camp. When you add two-time world champions Alex Morgan (COVID positive), Tobin Heath and Christen Press (both at Manchester United), who are not at the camp, that's a pool of 30 players he will have to whittle to 18 players for the Olympics.

The games against Colombia on Monday and Friday will give fans of just how hard that task will be as Andonovski will dress only 18 players for each game.

Here are three key things to look for from the 2021 opener ...

1. Macario set to make her U.S. debut up front. Less than a week after she signed with French club Lyon and was cleared by FIFA to represent the USA, Brazilian-born Catarina Macario will make her international debut.

Andonovski described Macario as "an exceptional player with exceptional potential" but smart enough to understand this is just the beginning.

"Getting her [citizenship] papers was hard, and getting the approval from FIFA was another battle she had to face off the field," he said. "And now the real battle starts. She is battling for a spot on the best team in the world and that's the hardest battle."

Macario will likely play up front, the closer to the goal the better, Andonovski said, to take advantage of her goal-scoring abilities.

2. Rapinoe and Lloyd return after 10-month absence. The last time Andonovski had veterans Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe in camp was at the SheBelieves Cup in March 2020. They both skipped all NWSL activity and the two fall national team camps in 2020.

He is pleased with what he has seen from Lloyd, 38, and Rapinoe, 35, and said they are probably going to play in both games against Colombia.

"Both Carli and Pinoe look better than what we expected," he said. "Also, they look better than last time we saw them in terms of physical preparedness and mental preparedness."

3. Sauerbrunn best fit for national team captain. Lloyd, Morgan and Rapinoe served as co-captains when the USA swept all seven games at the 2019 Women's World Cup, but Andonovski has handed the captain's armband to another veteran, 35-year-old defender Becky Sauerbrunn.

The move came as no surprise. She played her first five NWSL seasons for FC Kansas City, where Andonovski was her coach. She was the NWSL Defender of the Year in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and won NWSL championships in 2014 and 2015.

"Becky and I obviously go way back," he said, "but that is not why she is the captain on this team. What she did in Kansas City was incredible and I will always respect that. But on the national team, I had a chance to analyze not just her but everybody in terms of what their role is and impact is on the field and off the field, travels, hotels, anywhere. With all the analysis, we felt Becky was the best fit to be the captain of the national team."

Andonovski said he ran his decision past Lloyd, Morgan and Rapinoe, and they were supportive of the move.

"I wanted everyone to understand that Carli, Pinoe and Alex are very important for this environment," he said. "They are great leaders, they have impacted this team with their leadership skills but going forward Becky will need them. It’s hard to lead this team as an individual. Leadership is a group role and Becky will need them, I will need them and this team will need them."

U.S. Roster:
: Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).
: Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Abby Dahlkemper (Man. City/ENG), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit).
: Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Jaelin Howell (Florida State Univ.), Rose Lavelle (Man. City/ENG), Catarina Macario (Lyon/FRA), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Man. City/ENG), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).
: Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (NC Courage).

Colombia Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Natalia Giraldo (America de Cali), Sandra Sepulveda (Inde. Medellin), Valentina Gonzalez (Llaneros)
DEFENDERS (7): Kelly Ibarguen (Deportivo Cali), Daniela Arias (Junior), Orianica Velasquez (Junior), Jorelyn Carabali (Deportivo Cali), Carolina Arias (Deportivo Cali), Kelly Caicedo (Deportivo Cali), Nancy Acosta (Santa Fe)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Diana Ospina (Inde. Medellin), Ana Huertas (Santa Fe), Daniela Montoya (Junior), Maria Camila Reyes (Llaneros), Jessica Caro (America de Cali)
FORWARDS (7): Kena Romero (Santa Fe), Gisela Robledo (America de Cali), Catalina Usme (America de Cali), Ingrid Guerra (Deportivo Cali), Manuela Pavi (Deportivo Cali), Linda Caicedo (Deportivo Cali), Liana Salazar (Santa Fe)
9 comments about "Olympic Countdown: Macario's USWNT battle begins, Lloyd and Rapinoe return, Sauerbrunn named captain".
  1. Bob Ashpole, January 18, 2021 at 5:10 a.m.

    The little bit said indicates that US coach intends to make no changes from how the team played in 2019 and no significant changes to the roster. The Olympics has a very short schedule with few substitutes and our vets are 2 years older. I will just have to wait and see.

    I can't tell much from the camp roster. Regardless of who the final 18 is going to be, the coach will want his vets in the camp. It is his early announcement that 35 year old Sauerbrunn will be the captain that worries me. I can understand why she was picked. She is certainly deserving, but.... Only a part of it is her age. The other part is that he named only one captain for a short competition that should see everyone on the bench at some point. Having 2 or 3 captains makes more sense if we plan on rotating starting lineups.

    Perhaps he is simply keeping his cards close to his vest.

  2. E Velazquez, January 18, 2021 at 9:22 a.m.

    Agree fully with Mr. Ashpole. Everyone makes mistakes. We can not understand  that players like Sauerbrunn, Morgan , Rapino and Lloyd  were included . We have a very good  pool  of youngsters eager to improve representing the Country.  Why deny them? . 

  3. Adam Cohen, January 18, 2021 at 12:03 p.m.

    did anybody see Brady vs Brees yesterday?
    "too old" is in your mind

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, January 19, 2021 at 5:10 a.m.

    Not an apt comparison. Thomas Dooley would have been a better comparison, but at the end he was playing centerback, not midfield. He was also not playing the insane competitive schedule of the Olympics. 

    Do you not realize how much a 90 minute match takes out of you? In the knock out stage, it could be 120 minute matches. No subs like NCAA or youth rules. Then 2 days off and another match. I played against college teams when I was in my mid-30s, quite successfully, but...one match a week. It is so much harder to recover when you get older. For me the difference between 34 and 37 was night and day, mostly because of inflamation from arthritis.

    Science says adults need 3 days to replenish the energy sytems. 48 hour won't do it.

  5. R2 Dad, January 18, 2021 at 12:27 p.m.

    I'm hoping for progress, but winning teams (or even losing teams like the USMNT) don't like change and won't push for it unless forced to. We only cleared out the old guys after Couva. International football is a young person's game and our Nats coaches should keep that in mind when signing up players in their mid 30's.
    Sounds like the USWNT just wants Macario to be the New Abby if they're going to plug her in up top. The problem is going to be, Where will the creativity come from once Rapinoe and Lloyd retire? Vlatko cannot wait until there is a tournament where the old warhorses finally break down before he replaces them. He is head coach to make the hard decisions. He can make them now, before a tournament and make people angry, or he can avoid that conflict, possibly lose matches, then get fired if he doesn't win the tournament. 
    USSF let Pia Sundhage stay on for the Olympics in 2012 after losing to Japan in 2011--Vlatko shouldn't get another bite of the cherry if he buggers this up.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, January 19, 2021 at 5:16 a.m.

    Not a new Abby, but rather a new Rapinoe. He is thinking solely about replicating the lineup from 2019. He has CMs already, so he is going to play her out of position.

    From the way events occurred at USSF, I suspect that he was hired with the understanding that he could not change anything and that all big decisions would be made by USSF management, not the coach. So it is the same old, same old for this coach.

  7. Ben Myers, January 18, 2021 at 1:59 p.m.

    Talk about putting the pressure on Macario, with Andonovski saying she now has her biggest battle.  Very poor statement by the USWNT coach, not positive at all.  A statement like "Let's see what she can do" is more positive, as would be a simple statement of welcome.

  8. frank schoon replied, January 18, 2021 at 3:45 p.m.

    Totally befuddled by this coach....I have no idea what's in this coache's head....

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, January 19, 2021 at 5:22 a.m.

    Frank, my guess is that he wants to make minor adjustments to how we played in 2019, etc. What I am thinking is that he is going to improve technique and skills, but not change tactics or style.

    I call it "playing it safe". Obviously his instructions are to win a gold medal. How do you do that? By not losing. That mentality is about as anti-change as possible.

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