U.S. Women Start 2018 In Style

US Soccer, Pugh, U.S. Women
Mallory Pugh scored twice in the USWNT 2018-opening win. Photo: US Soccer

The U.S. Women’s National Team kicked off 2018 in impressive fashion as a combination of veterans and up-and-coming stars topped Denmark 5-1 in San Diego on Sunday, January 21.

Despite conceding early, the U.S. scored five unanswered goals to coast to victory. The match was the completion of the team’s January camp that included a roster of 26 and featured many familiar faces and a host of new players.

With the next women’s World Cup more than 18 months away, head coach Jill Ellis still has time to settle on a core of players that will serve as her regular starting 11 heading into 2019.

In the first match of 2018, her first 11 showed the depth of the U.S. squad with veterans Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Julie Ertz further cementing their spots while teen sensation Mallory Pugh was a continual thorn in the side of Denmark, scoring twice.

In addition, Morgan, Ertz and Long Island’s Crystal Dunn also scored for the U.S.

One the many things on display during the team’s first match of 2018 was its depth. The six substitutions made by Ellis included Carli Lloyd, Lynn Williams, Christen Press and Dunn. Also, while Alyssa Naeher kept her spot as the head coach’s starting keeper, Ashlyn Harris was the backup in San Diego and talented keepers Jane Campbell and Adrianna Franch were also in camp.

With the SheBelieves Cup on the horizon in March just prior to the start of the National Women’s Soccer League season, Ellis will soon have a three-game tournament to further evaluate her squad. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the U.S. head coach is choosing her best 18 game in and game out.

Veterans from the 2015 World Cup title team such as Morgan, Rapinoe, Lloyd who were in San Diego, and those that weren’t including Tobin Heath and Sydney Leroux-Dwyer give Ellis a base of talent that may be as deep as ever.

How Ellis manages the team throughout the year in preparation for World Cup qualifying and ultimately next year’s World Cup will be something worth watching throughout 2018.