With Olympic qualifying on the horizon for the U.S. Women’s National Team, head coach Jill Ellis has selected her 20 player roster, which includes Crystal Dunn of Rockville Centre.
The roster is a mix of veterans and newcomers, and clearly a nod to the future of U.S. Women’s Soccer. In addition to Dunn, who was left off the roster for the 2015 World Cup, the most notable inclusion on the roster is 17-year old Mallory Pugh who recently earned her first cap and scored her first goal against Ireland.
The roster consists of three goalkeepers, seven defenders, five midfielders and five forwards, although many of the selected players can play multiple positions.
“This was an exceptionally challenging roster to select,” said Ellis. “The players all worked and competed very hard in the January Camp and that made the final decisions extremely difficult.”
With only 17 players allowed on the roster and a small amount of time between qualifying matches, Ellis believes the U.S. has one of the most versatile rosters ever for a qualifying tournament.
“Most of the field players are capable of playing at least two positions and as CONCACAF competitions generally present teams that will sit low and get numbers behind the ball, it is important to have players that can individually and collectively break teams down to create chances,” she added.
The team includes 13 members of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship team and seven Olympic qualifying veterans, three of whom (Hope Solo, Tobin Heath and Carli Lloyd) took part in qualifying for the 2008 Olympics.
Lloyd leads the group with a combined nine Olympic qualifying appearances between 2008 and 2012, followed by Solo with eight games played over the same span. Lloyd and Solo also lead the team in caps with 212 and 186, respectively.
At the other end of the spectrum, Pugh is the youngest player to be named to a USWNT Olympic qualifying roster. She is joined by seven other players with eight or fewer overall caps.
With a top-two finish in the qualifying tournament, the U.S. women would join Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, South Africa, Zimbabwe and New Zealand, who have already qualified, in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August. The United States is looking to win gold at a fourth consecutive Olympiad and the fifth time in team history.
The U.S. is set to begin Olympic Qualifying group play against Costa Rica on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 7:30 p.m.
U.S. Women’s National Team Olympic Qualifying Roster By Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (7): Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash)
FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Stephanie McCaffrey (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)