Portugal — The U.S. Women’s National Team is officially counting down the days until the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
This year is a World Cup year, with the tournament taking place in June. The reigning champions will look to lift a fourth World Cup trophy in France this summer. For the last three years, Jill Ellis, USWNT head coach, has picked several new players to experiment with.
Some have stayed, some have not returned to the program.
With the World Cup about five months away, the United States has a few friendlies slated to prepare for the big tournament. This month, the USWNT is jetting overseas to face off against France — the host nation — and Spain.
However, the team’s training will be done in Portugal. It’s a change of scenery from the usual January camp the USWNT normally conducts.
Ellis has named 26-players to the upcoming January camp roster. Meanwhile, only one player on the roster, goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, is uncapped.
As for the match schedule, the United States will face France first, at the Stade Océane in Le Havre on Jan. 19. The match is slated for a 2:30 p.m. ET kickoff time. On Jan. 22, the United States will face Spain at the Estadio José Rico Perez in Alicante. That match will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Below is the full roster. Here are some important takeaways from Ellis’ roster.
The Full Roster
Goalkeepers: Jane Campbell, Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris and Adrianna Franch
Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Emily Fox, Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Casey Short and Emily Sonnett
Midfielders: Morgan Brian, Danielle Colaprico, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Samantha Mewis and McCall Zerboni
Forwards: Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Jessica McDonald, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh and Megan Rapinoe
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) December 31, 2018
Highlight: Injured players return
McCall Zerboni hasn’t featured for the United States since last fall.
The versatile midfielder, who features at the club level for the North Carolina Courage, broke her arm — specifically, her elbow — against Chile in September. Zerboni, an integral part in North Carolina’s championship run this season, was forced to miss the playoffs and NWSL Championship game.
Now, Zerboni is back in the mix for Ellis.
In the last two years, Zerboni made seven appearances for the United States. She has yet to score her first international goal, but has featured in multiple different places in Ellis’ midfield.
Meanwhile, Zerboni isn’t the only injured player returning to the mix. Kelley O’Hara missed the final USWNT camp of 2018 with an ankle injury. O’Hara received surgery on her ankle in October, after the NWSL regular-season ended. The defender featured this past season for the Utah Royals FC in their inaugural season.
Another injured player returning to USWNT camp is Tierna Davidson. Davidson, who was named U.S. Soccer’s Female Young Player of the Year for 2018, features collegiately for Stanford. Her injury occurred during a September match against the University of North Carolina.
This past season for Stanford, Davidson, who’s entering her senior season, featured in three matches, starting two. She scored one goal against UC Davis on Aug. 17.
Will Franch finally be capped?
Adrianna Franch is the lone player without a USWNT appearance.
Can that change in these friendlies?
It seems unlikely, given Ellis’ track record. Ellis has switched back-and-forth between Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris. It seems like Naeher is going to be the No. 1 goalkeeper heading into the World Cup. However, given club performances and past performances, Ellis should consider giving Franch a shot.
This past season, Franch made 16 appearances for the Portland Thorns FC. She spent some time dealing with a lower body injury. However, in her 16 appearances, Franch recorded three clean sheets.
Jane Campbell, the fourth goalkeeper on the roster, is capped, but will likely not receive playing time either. With the Houston Dash, Campbell featured in 24 matches, recording three clean sheets.
As for Naeher, who features for the Chicago Red Stars, the 30-year-old goalkeeper made 30 appearances this year. She recorded seven clean sheets. Meanwhile, Harris, goalkeeper for the Orlando Pride, recorded four clean sheets in 21 appearances. Harris also spent a portion of 2018 with injury.
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) January 1, 2019
Can Mallory Pugh rekindle a comeback?
Last year was not kind to Mallory Pugh.
The young talent experienced her second season with the Washington Spirit. However, despite loading a roster with young talent, the Spirit couldn’t find ways to win. Instead, the team finished second-to-last in the NWSL, slightly above Sky Blue FC.
Pugh suffered a knee injury in May and didn’t quite look the same when she returned. She missed some time with the USWNT and Washington Spirit. This past NWSL season, Pugh recorded two goals in 15 appearances.
In 13 starts, Pugh totaled 1,082 minutes.
While many thought that Pugh, Andi Sullivan and Rose Lavelle would be an unstoppable young force in the NWSL, the three never found their footing. Instead, Ashley Hatch took control of the offense, scoring four goals in 22 matches. Hatch even took home the Golden Boot award for the Spirit.
Here’s the full list of matches for the USWNT before the World Cup.
- USWNT vs. France — Jan. 19 @ 2:30 p.m. ET.
- USWNT vs. Spain — Jan. 22 @ 2:30 p.m. ET.
- USWNT vs. Japan — Feb. 27 @ 7 p.m. ET.
- USWNT vs. England — March 2 @ 4:30 p.m. ET.
- USWNT vs. Brazil — March 5 @ 8 p.m. ET.
- USWNT vs. Australia — April 4 @ 9 p.m. ET.
- USWNT vs. Belgium — April 7 @ 9 p.m. ET.
- USWNT vs. South Africa — May 12 @ 4:30 p.m. ET.
- USWNT vs. New Zealand — May 16 @ 8 p.m. ET.
- USWNT vs. Mexico — May 26 @ 12 p.m. Noon ET.
2019 is here‼️
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) January 3, 2019