USWNT: Olympic long-shots should get chance to make their case

The USA closes out play at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup when it faces Argentina on Wednesday at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium.

Argentina was a late replacement for Olympic host Japan and is the weakest team that has played in the SheBelieves Cup its six years. It's currently ranked 31st in the world and had not played an international match in 15 months before facing Brazil and Canada (4-1 and 1-0 losses).

La Albiceleste has only played the USA three times and was crushed each time: 8-1 and 7-0 in 1998 and 7-0 in 2014.

Having started 15 different players in the wins over Canada (1-0) and Brazil (2-0), U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski will likely empty his bench and give starts or extended looks to several other players.

In goal, Alyssa Naeher has started four of five since the national team resumed play in November. Jane Campbell started in the 6-0 win over Colombia in January while Casey Murphy is looking for her first cap.

Two backup spots on the Olympic team are likely up for grabs on the backline, and Tierna Davidson and Casey Krueger should get starts against Argentina. Both appeared on Tuesday's pregame media call.

Kristie Mewis has played very well since her return to the national team three months ago, though she faces a daunting task of beating out one of the USA's quintet of world-class midfielders.

Sophia Smith, who is the youngest player on the team at the age of 20, faces a similar situation up front. She turned pro in 2020 after foregoing her last two seasons at Stanford but will likely have to wait until after the Olympics when the USA's thirty-somethings start to retire.

The only U.S. field player besides injured Kelley O'Hara and Davidson who hasn't played so far in Orlando is Jaelin Howell, the team's only collegian from Florida State.

Right now, the competition for spots on the U.S. Olympic team is so intense that these reserves are almost all long shots to get tickets for Japan.

“It is very daunting to consider how many players that are so high quality in this environment, and how few players make an Olympic roster,” Davidson said on the media call. “It’s hard to think about it and to place myself among the 18.”

Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

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