Thanks to a plethora of young talent and experienced veterans, United States national team coach Vlatko Andonovski must make some tough decisions in order to narrow down the roster to just 18 players.
With the tournament just months away, here are some predictions for Andonovski’s Tokyo team.
Goalkeepers: Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris
Alyssa Naeher has been the go-to in net for Andonovski, who called her “one of the best goalkeepers in the world” in a pre-match press conference in February. An important asset to the NWSL Chicago Red Stars and with two World Cups under her belt, Naeher’s impressive stat sheet proves that her presence in Tokyo is very likely.
Back-up to Naeher, Ashlyn Harris and Jane Campbell are both in the running for a spot on the 18-women roster.
While Harris may not have appeared on the most recent USWNT roster, her veteran status and experience keeps her in the running for a roster spot. In addition, Harris played a key role in helping lead the Orlando Pride during the 2021 Challenge Cup. Undoubtedly, Harris is still in the running for a spot in the tournament, but young talent may cause trouble for Harris as Andonovski looks to bring in new players.
Campbell is making her presence known, despite only having five caps with the USWNT. A 2017 finalist for the NWSL Rookie of the Year award, we will definitely see more of Campbell in the future. Proving herself in the 2021 Challenge Cup, Campbell held a strong performance against the Portland Thorns, the 2021 Challenge Cup champions. Even if we don’t see Campbell in Tokyo, she is likely to be a powerful force for the national team in the future.
Defenders: Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelley O’Hara, Crystal Dunn, Emily Sonnett, Tierna Davidson
The back line of the USWNT has not changed in the past few years. Dunn, Sauerbrunn, O’Hara and Dahlkemper have all appeared in the starting line-up of the last seven USA friendlies of the year. It is clear that Andonovski is experimenting with his back line, but we can definitely expect to see these four in Tokyo, injury permitting.
With that, there are just two spots for defenders left. Davidson made history for being the youngest player to win a World Cup at age 20. A first round draft pick in the NWSL, she has proved over the years that she is ready to hold her own in the centre or in a fullback position.
Emily Sonnett’s speed and ability to get her opponents off the ball will be needed in order to keep opponents off the scoreboard. Her experience in the 2019 World Cup will also be an important advantage for the United States backline.
Midfielders: Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Kristie Mewis
The Mewis sisters may be headed to Tokyo together. Sam Mewis, appearing in 72 matches, has had more chances with the national team compared to her sister. Sam has proven herself as a key player for the United States, transforming herself from a player who failed to make the 2015 World Cup to one of the best players, according to ESPN FC. Sam Mewis not only knows how to score goals, but can win any midfield battle that comes her way.
Despite being called up first to the national team in 2013, Kristie Mewis appeared in only 15 games with the United States before her international career came to a halt. Since then, however, Kristie Mewis worked her way back on to the roster and has been dominating the pitch ever since. As a result, we may get to see the two Mewis sisters together this summer.
Julie Ertz is another strong possibility for the summer roster. As a defensive central midfielder, her consistency and ability to regain possession will be essential to help get the United States to the top of the podium in August. Not to mention, she also has a knack for scoring crucial goals.
Lavelle’s technical skills and ball control alone are a primary reason why we will see her on the 18-women roster. She garnered attention during the 2019 World Cup and would go on to win the Bronze Ball at the end of the tournament.
Comfortable deep in the midfield, but also effective in the #10 role, Lindsey Horan’s confidence in many different positions is an important asset to the United States. Horan helped the Portland Thorns clinch a Challenge Cup final spot after scoring on a free kick at the top of the box. Undoubtedly, that skill and finesse will be needed if the United States looks to defeat Sweden, New Zealand and Australia in the group stage.
Forwards: Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Christine Press, Carli Lloyd
Many of the attacking talent on the USWNT will be familiar and that all comes down to how talented these veterans are. With a pool of strong young players, like Lynn Williams and Sophia Smith ready to make their mark, Andonovski will definitely have a hard time choosing his attacking line. When it comes down to it, however, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Christen Press and Carli Lloyd are all strong contenders for spots on the Tokyo roster.
Morgan has been easing herself back into her starting role on the United States National Team. Despite giving birth just a few months ago, Morgan has regained her sharpness on the field. Andonovski said that he is “very happy with [Morgan’s] attitude and mentality” during the U.S. vs France friendly match in April. As a result, we will probably see her on the pitch come July.
Coming out of a stellar performance during the She Believes Cup, Rapinoe knows how to score goals and create opportunities. Aside from her unquestionable talent, the energy that Rapinoe brings both on and off the field will be an important force in bringing the national team all the way to the Olympic finals.
Heath is indispensable. An attacking powerhouse and defensive threat, she is a consistent force for the United States. Her ankle and knee injury, however, leaves her a question mark next to her name whether or not she will be ready for Tokyo in July.
Press proved herself this year as a versatile player and natural striker. She has made 144 appearances and scored 60 goals thus far for the national team. Her wealth of experience playing for Manchester United this past year and her dominance in the recent friendly matches have shown how important she is to the national team.
While Lloyd seemed off in a recent 1-0 win against Canada, her experience alone makes her an important asset to the national team. Her ability to create runs for herself and her defensive abilities are crucial to a gold medal winning team. It may even be Lloyd’s last Olympics before she retires, so we can expect to see her working hard to secure her last spot ever on the big stage.
Names left out (with potential to make the roster): Catarina Macario, Jessica McDonald, Ashley Hatch, Sophia Smith, Mallory Pugh, Ali Krieger
Macario, McDonald, Hatch, Smith, Pugh and Krieger are all players who have the potential to make the cut this summer. Little experience or a lack of playing time, however, may be the reason these players are left off come June when Andonovski selects his 18 players.
That being said, nobody truly knows who will make it to Tokyo. The rosters for upcoming matches may be a good indication of who is headed to the Olympics, but it will be a challenge for Andonovski, who has dozens of talented players to choose from. At the end of the day, it is a good problem to have as a head coach, especially looking ahead to the 2023 World Cup.