If the US women’s national team are going to win their second straight Women’s World Cup,We know that squad that will do. But how does this current squad compares to the one that won it all four years ago? Here is a look at how the 2019 US squad stacks up against the 2015 group.
Arguably the biggest drop-off from the previous World Cup roster is at goalkeeper and it’s mainly down to the absence of one player: Solo. As the best goalkeeper in the world at the time, Solo helped the US win games they could otherwise have drawn or lost. The prime example from 2015 comes from the opening match of the tournament against Australia, where Solo made a few spectacular saves that robbed Australia. This time around, Naeher will be the starter, and she’s nowhere near as reliable as Solo. Her backups include Franch, who has just one cap for the national team. The US depth in 2015 wasn’t spectacular, but it’s even thinner now.
2015: Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Ertz, Whitney Engen, Christie Rampone, Ali Krieger, Meghan Klingenberg, Lori Chalupny, Kelley O’Hara. Score: 8/10
2019: Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Kelley O’Hara, Ali Krieger, Emily Sonnett. Score: 6/10
The starting center-back tandem of 2015 consisted of Sauerbrunn and Ertz, but now that Ertz has been moved to midfield, Dahlkemper should take her place in France. It’s a fine pairing, but with Sauerbrunn now in her mid-30s and Dahlkemper lacking international experience, there will likely be a drop-off from 2015.
The US have a depth problem at full-back. The only defender that has been playing as a left-back is the starter, Crystal Dunn (and she’s not even a left-back for her club). The other option on the left would have been Casey Short, but Ellis cut her in a surprise move, despite Short’s consistent call-ups. The 2015 squad didn’t have the best depth either, but the Americans were lucky it was never needed. Advertisement
Kelley O’Hara, the presumed starter this summer on the right, can play on both sides. Meanwhile, the US have two defenders who offer depth both at right-back and center-back: Ali Krieger, who has essentially been out of the national team for two years and is a surprise inclusion, and Emily Sonnett, who plays as a center-back for her club but as a right-back for the national team.
Already we’ve seen that the current US backline is struggling – in four of their last seven friendlies, they’ve conceded multiple goals. That’s a concern because in 2015, the US rode their defense to the trophy and went 540 minutes without conceding a goal. It seems to be more of a cohesion problem than a talent problem – but it is a problem nonetheless.
There are a lot more midfielders this time around, and that’s because since 2015 the US has switched from a 4-4-2 with a two-woman central midfield to a 4-3-3 with a three-woman central midfield.
The presumed starters this summer are Lavelle, who has been the creative playmaker; Horan, who has been a box-to-box midfielder; and Ertz, who has been the defensive midfielder. All three are supremely talented and the only concern is whether, with all the injuries and tinkering over the past several months, they will cohere in France. Mewis should be the first-choice backup if the midfield needs any changes because she can slot in any role and do a decent job at it. Advertisement
Meanwhile, despite Brian playing a crucial role in helping the US turn around their midfield struggles in 2015, it’s a surprise to see her this time around. She has struggled over the past two years with form and consistency, and was left out of the national team’s last rosters. Long is also a slight surprise as she has been in and out with the US and was not a lock.
The US attack this summer ought to be as dominant as it’s ever been. Back in 2015, Morgan was coming off injury and, early on, the US struggled to find goals up top without her. This time around, she’s in fine form and poised to have a massive tournament.
Morgan’s primary backup in 2019 is Lloyd, the same player who took the 2015 World Cup by the scruff of its neck from midfield. Now, Lloyd is a pure striker, unburdened with defensive backtracking duties, and at 36-years-old she remains a clutch off-the-bench option.
Along the wings, the current US team oozes talent and creativity. Presumed starters Rapinoe and Heath can single-handedly beat lines and create space as well as anyone in the world – both are excellent at setting up their teammates or scoring on their own. Behind them, Press and Pugh offer exceptional depth: both would be starters on most other teams in this summer’s World Cup. The US’s attacking depth is a clear improvement from 2015 and everyone is coming into the tournament in great form. There’s little room for improvement.
The one surprise inclusion this time is McDonald, who hasn’t featured much for the US. But in a worst-case scenario where Morgan becomes unavailable, McDonald offers some depth without forcing the US to change the way they play when Morgan is up top.
Jill Ellis is at the helm for the second straight World Cup, but it’s under very different circumstances this time around. Back in 2015, Ellis had only about a year with the team before selecting her World Cup roster because Tom Sermanni was abruptly fired and she stepped in. Ellis didn’t have many opportunities to bring new players in and she mainly selected from the group that Sermanni had assembled.
This time around, Ellis has used the extra lead-in time to experiment and call in a slew of youngsters. Unlike in 2015, Ellis has had total freedom over her selection because the team’s collective bargaining agreement in 2017 removed all restrcions on player call up.
In some cases she’s used that time wisely, finding a handful of good central midfield options. But at full-back, despite her eagernes put others out, she’s gone back to the well on Krieger, Dunn and O’Hara and hasn’t found much new depth.
This time around, Ellis wants her team to be more adaptable, more flexible and more unpredictable. That’s why she’s been experimenting so much with different players and different formations, not even pausing as the World Cup inches closer. If the more sophisticated approach Ellis wants comes off, it could be a boon for the US – but if the team fails to gel and find its rhythm, it could be an early exit for the Americans. Then the question becomes whether Ellis used her newfound roster freedom correctly.