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Archive for May 4, 2019

May 4, 2019 — Two American teams, loads of interesting choices

The U.S. women’s soccer preliminary roster for the 2019 Women’s World Cup was released earlier this week, as was the U.S. women’s indoor field hockey team’s squad for competition later this year in preparation for the 2020 Pan American Indoor Cup.

For the U.S. indoor field hockey national side, the roster includes three recent members of the U.S. senior national team — Melissa Gonzalez, Carissa Vittese, and Michelle Vittese. Gonzalez was the U.S. captain for several years, and Michelle Vittese was a player who had a penchant for coming up with big-time plays in big-time situations.

Interestingly enough, the current U.S. women’s senior outdoor side now has Mary Beth Barham, who figured greatly in the indoor national team’s last go-round at Pan American competition. And I think she may not be the last, given the youth of the indoor national team pool, which includes the superb senior Paityn Wirth, late of Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.).

As for the U.S. women’s soccer team, the major changes seem to have been made on the defensive end. Head coach Jill Ellis has a new backfield, with the retirements of Meghan Klingenberg and goalie Hope Solo, and the shift of Julie Ertz to midfield. We may get an idea of what the U.S. coaching staff has in mind with the upcoming three-game sendoff series, but I think both of those two slots will be occupied by players who aren’t exactly defensive defenders. Those two players are veteran midfielder Kelley O’Hara and Crystal Dunn, who at one time was the highest-scoring player in the National Women’s Soccer League, but is being seen as the top choice at left back.

Putting Dunn on the back line creates a bit less of a logjam of talent for the States on the front end, where eight players are going to have to compete for one soccer ball. This includes veterans Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, the mercurial Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath, and Mallory Pugh, who was a sensation heading into the Rio Olympics, and had found herself in a bit of a numbers game heading into France 2019.

But I think this World Cup team is going to pivot on the performance of a couple of the less-experienced players. Jessica McDonald played her way into the U.S. squad through her time with the Western New York Flash of the NWSL. Midfielder Allie Long returns to the U.S. side after a couple of years away. Both are 31 years of age with under 50 caps each.

I think another key player for the U.S. is going to be Lindsey Horan, who was the first of this generation of U.S. players to not go to college and to instead ply their trade with a European club (Paris-St. Germain).

We’ll see how the construction of this team helps or hurts the team’s effort in winning a fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup.