TopOfTheCircle.com

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July 12, 2016 — 53 weeks mean a lot

It was just over a year ago that the U.S. women’s national soccer team took home the World Cup in a dominating 5-2 win over Japan. A group of 23 women criss-crossed the country doing press, riding in a ticker-tape parade, and promoting a victory tour of friendlies across America.

The long-term problem, for Jill Ellis and her staff, was the fact that only 18 players could be on the roster for the second most-important world championship, the Olympics, which the States have won four out of five times since women’s soccer became part of the program in 1996.

The math may have been simple, but the stories were complicated. There were retirements, a couple of pregnancies, and knee injuries to key players.

But yesterday’s selection of 16 outfielders and two goalies shows that Ellis has great faith in her newcomers to the side.

The newcomers span a wide variety of experiences. Lindsey Horan, late of the Portland Thorns, skipped college to sign with European side Paris St. Germain. Mallory Pugh is 18 years old and just finished high school.

Crystal Dunn had to wait her turn to make the national team, finishing last year’s NWSL season as MVP and leading scorer, even as the U.S. women won last year’s World Cup. Allie Long is a veteran club player who has only nine national team caps, but has now been tapped for election for the Olympics, and is now being expected to provide depth in both the offensive and defensive midfield.

Of course, the familiar names are retained for the women’s national team. The defense returns intact, with goalkeeper Hope Solo and the back four of Ali Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg, and Becky Sauerbrunn, although Ellis did intimate that Kelley O’Hara is going to be the States’ starter at right back.

The two people that American fans are going to be focused on are two aging superstars coming off major injury. Carli Lloyd, who always comes up biggest in big games for the United States, is coming off a ligament sprain suffered in club football with the Houston Dash. Megan Rapinoe, who suffered a knee injury in preparation for a since-cancelled friendly in Hawaii, is working her way back into match fitness. Both of these players are going to have to catch fire in Rio in order to have the necessary impact in a short tournament.

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