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  • Writer's pictureChelsea-Anne Calder

FIFA Forecast: USWNT Edition

USWNT head coach, Vlatko Andonovski is expected to name his World Cup roster later this month. Huge emphasis has been made on club performance, however, key players have missed out on league games due to injury. Will Andonovski bet on promising young talents or take risks with injured veterans?

USWNT Starting Lineup vs Ireland on April 8, 2023. Photo by Ely Garcia for WSX

Goalkeepers

Alyssa Naeher

Casey Murphy

Adrianna Franch


A few weeks ago, this goalkeeper position would have been the easiest decision to make. However, recent club play created doubts about who will be the USA’s number-one starting goalkeeper. Each of these players listed above had rocky starts to their club season, opening the conversation to Aubrey Kingsbury or Abby Smith.


Despite these initial worries, Andonovski could never go against the NWSL all-time leading goal stopper: Alyssa Naeher. With over 519 saves and two World Cups under her belt, Naeher will continue to start in goal come this World Cup. This leaves 6’0” tall Casey Murphy as the second-choice goalkeeper who is excellent with the ball at her feet. In 14 appearances with the national team, she has managed to keep 10 clean sheets. Murphy is a favorite under Andonovski and her quality will positively challenge Naeher to be in form.

Three goalkeepers typically go to a World Cup and this last spot will go to Adrianna Franch. Franch has had the greatest struggle with her club, battling to make it into KC Current’s starting lineup. Andonovski will be keeping a close eye on her playing time, but her previous experiences at the 2019 World Cup and 2021 Olympics will earn her a spot to Australia/New Zealand. In the event a goalkeeper gets injured, Andonovski will want to avoid a repeat of the 2021 Olympics. Franch will bring depth and a winning mentality no other goalkeeper has shown.


Defenders

Becky Sauerbrunn

Emily Fox

Crystal Dunn

Alana Cook

Naomi Girma

Sofia Huerta

Kelley O’Hara


This position will be Andonovski’s biggest challenge when choosing his final roster. Andonovski has yet to cement his starting backline. There have been inconsistencies with players’ roles on the defensive side, but what has been the same are these players listed above. This list creates a mixture of veterans and newcomers. Players like Fox, Cook, Girma, and Huerta will participate in their first major international tournament, while Sauerbrunn, Dunn, and O’Hara will look to defend their titles.


Huerta’s diagonal balls and crosses are one of the best in the world. She can not only assist her teammates with great ease but also shoot from distance. Her unique quality makes her a valuable player for Andonovski. Similarly, Fox and Dunn are players who can quickly dribble forward contributing to the attack and make something out of nothing. It is highly likely that both Fox and Dunn will be Andonovski’s starting fullbacks.

Crystal Dunn against Debinha in SheBelieve's Cup match Feb. 22, 2023. Photo by Ely Garcia for WSX

On the other hand, Cook and Girma played together at Stanford University. Their understanding of each other makes the decision easy for the coaching staff to play them as a center-back pairing in the event Sauerbunn is injured. Individually, both have shown they can stand as their own in this center-back position. Girma is the reigning NWSL Defender and Rookie of the Year, while Cook is a starter for the reigning NWSL Shield Winners. Cook also has experience playing in Europe winning the French league with Paris Saint-Germain in 2021 and training with the England Lionesses.


Now, the final and most difficult decision is between Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett. Kelley O’Hara has been battling an ankle injury for the majority of this season. However, O’Hara is an attacking-minded player that loves to get forward, while also being able to track back for her defensive duties. Her vocal leadership is one of a kind and she is not afraid to tell a teammate to be better. A championship-winning team needs a player who is fearless and unapologetic. This is Kelley O’Hara. It is tough to go against Emily Sonnett considering she is healthy and playing well for OL Reign. This season she has emphasized her versatility, but unlike Crystal Dunn, this quality may go against Emily Sonnett.


Unfortunately, Emily Sonnett’s natural position is more central than on the wing. Like at the club level, Alana Cook will be the preferred choice over Emily Sonnett for a center-back position. Although Sonnett can play as a fullback, having played this role at the 2019 World Cup, a 70% fit Kelley O’Hara will be a better option in this position than a healthy Emily Sonnett.


Midfielders

Rose Lavelle

Lindsey Horan

Kristie Mewis

Ashley Sanchez

Julie Ertz

Andi Sullivan


This midfield selection is a promising prediction for Andonovski’s roster. Each of these players have shared valuable minutes on the field and have proven to be a like-for-like substitute in the event a natural starter is injured. There is a high chance Mewis, Sanchez, and Sullivan will participate in their first-ever World Cup tournament.

Kristie Mewis warms up during USWNT match against Brazil during the 2023 SheBelieve's Cup. Photo by Ely Garcia for WSX

Mewis has been an important player for Gotham FC, bringing them to the top of the table. She is a creative leader with perfect weighted passes that rise her above Taylor Kornieck. Sanchez and Sullivan play together at the club level, which for a 3 person midfield formation will be beneficial. Ertz and Horan are favorites under Andonovski and there is no doubt that they will play a huge role in this tournament. Ertz is still working her way back to 90 minutes fitness, but her direct approach to the game connecting both the backline and frontline is why she will be looking to win her third gold medal.


Rose Lavelle is probably the biggest question mark in terms of game fitness. She has yet to play a competitive match since April 8 against the Republic of Ireland. However, Andonovski has a history of naming recovering injured players to his rosters. A similar creative type of player in Savannah DeMelo will likely miss out on an international tournament despite a strong final push to change Andonovski’s mind.


Forwards

Alex Morgan

Sophia Smith

Lynn Williams

Trinity Rodman

Megan Rapinoe

Alyssa Thompson

Ashley Hatch


The greatest strength for the USA is their unbelievable depth in forwards. With the unfortunate injury to Mallory Swanson, Andonovski will look to fill her position. A new starting trio will need to be formed. Sophia Smith is a guaranteed starter for this team. She is dynamic in every way possible. Her connection with Alex Morgan is threatening and having Lynn Williams or Trinity Rodman on the wing as well will create problems for any opponent.


The beauty of this forward group is that each player brings something unique. Rapinoe can whip a ball, unlike any other player on this team. She is a free-kick, penalty, and assist specialist. Morgan will always put her body on the line and attract defenders, opening up wide areas for her wingers to explode into that space. Morgan also happens to score in any and every way possible, especially with her left foot. Smith just needs a bit of space and she will quickly release a shot on target. She can effectively score and assist with ease despite three or four defenders on her.

Williams has the greatest work ethic being one of the best two-way forwards in the world. She can press the backline ruthlessly and dribble to the end-line, unlike any other player. Rodman will shift past defenders left and right then finish off with a goal when she wants. She also does not mind getting defenders angry and being physical. Thompson will run at any backline without a care in the world. She is a gritty player who will shoot from any distance or angle. Often seen as a super-sub under Andonovski, Hatch will have an impact on the game in every single minute she is playing. She will always find a connection with her teammates, especially considering the familiarity with her club teammates Rodman, Sullivan, and Sanchez.





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