Sports in 2021 is a weird thing.
Time has seemingly lost most of its meaning due to the movement of events that typically run like clockwork. The metrics that we’ve used for years as hard and fast standards have been replaced by other measures because we just don’t have the data we’re used to or the sample sizes that we need. Sports fans and the whole of sports media are suddenly grading on a giant shared curve.
The United States women’s national team may or may not have an Olympic title to play for in 2021. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski may or may not have to make tough calls and uncomfortable conversations with aging stars and fresh faced rookies who are ready to have their very own 123rd minute semi final winning goals. Maybe there are games to be played and maybe there aren’t.
Sitting here in March 2021, we really can’t be 100% sure if the games should happen much less if they will happen. However, the nature of sports and covering sports means even if we’re not sure if something will happen that doesn’t mean we can’t think about it until we know one way or another.
So, let’s talk about the USWNT roster for 2021.
The Stone Cold Locks for the USWNT
Look, I’ll be honest, writing about Abby Dahlkemper or Julie Ertz or Crystal Dunn and the like can be very fun. Writing about how Dahlkemper, Ertz, Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alyssa Naeher, Christen Press Megan Rapinoe, Lindsey Horan, Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis are locks to make the Olympic roster is not fun.
Granted, it’s not fun because what else is there to say? They are all incredible players that are vital to Andonovski’s game plan and team chemistry. They all either score mind exploding goals, stop others from scoring goals or, in the case of Dunn, do both.
There isn’t much I can add to the discourse of this group other than to say it’s a safe bet that if there is a USWNT roster to be had for 2021, their names will be listed.
Andonovski might joke that all 18 positions are open as he figures his roster out but these seven names are written as close to sharpie as you can get.
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) March 2, 2021
The Small Questions Group
I fully believe that the next group is going to make the roster — except each of them have a small question attached to them.
Will Rose Lavelle pick up another injury before the Olympic roster has to be submitted? What about Kelley O’Hara and her glass ankles? Will Tobin Heath make enough of a recovery before Andonovski has to make his final decisions? Is is worth taking Carli Lloyd to the Olympics in place of a younger player who may be a future key? Will Alex Morgan’s form during SheBeleves Cup hold during the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup? Will Emily Sonnett or Tierna Davidson be on the final roster or will it be both of them?
To answer some of these questions:
O’Hara is going to the Olympics — and is very likely to start as she did all of the Olympic matches for the US in 2012 and 2016 — unless her ankles run away in the middle of the night. Even then I am pretty sure she’d track a pair down to use for the day. Heath likewise is likely to be suiting up for her forth Olympics if at least semi healthy. Let’s just hope she is healthy enough and including her doesn’t bring on flashbacks of 2016 Rapinoe.
Lavelle could be injured and healed six times between now and the Olympics. She seems to pick up knocks watching other people play as if the injury are the humors from the middle ages. Sonnett and Davidson likely both go, in part so Dunn and O’Hara have the freedom to be played in the attack if needed.
Morgan is one of the greatest big and small game players in the team’s history. Andonovski can say that club matters — and for the first time in … ever … I believe a USWNT coach when they say this — but if Morgan looks anywhere close to good she’s going.
To me the biggest of the small questions in all of this is Lloyd.
In 2021 is it worth bringing Lloyd?
It’s a question where there are good points to be made on both sides. On one hand the idea of having a player who has been there, done that and has a t-shirt with her face and Olympic goals on it is compelling. Being able to bring FIFA Player of the Year Lloyd off your bench in a close game is a feat only the USWNT can perform.
On the other hand it’s an 18 player roster with the 2023 World Cup less than two years later. Is a player who will be a very likely sub — super as she has the ability to be — worth having Catarina Macario or Kristie Mewis or another player sitting in the stands or back in the US for?
Unsatisfying? I don’t know. I can’t answer it yet. My gut says she makes the 18 but long term I think she does not make the most sense for the program.
Heading out of Orlando on a high note 🎉 pic.twitter.com/d437PASAzN
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) February 25, 2021
More Testing Needed
Who is going to be the backup goalkeeper that is used is practice and if somehow some grass gets into Alyssa Naeher’s eye and she needs to be pulled? Ashlyn Harris? AdrianaFranch? Jane Campbell? This one matters only because if the unthinkable happens we need someone able to set up but while this question is important it’s not the burning question of our time.
We do have some much bigger questions to address though.
Has Kristie Mewis shown enough to punch her ticket to Tokyo? How about Macario? Will Mallory Pugh or Morgan Gautrat find their way back on the USWNT for a major roster? What about Ali Krieger, will she finally get her Olympic medal? Will Casey Krueger make a major roster or will she keep being one of the very last cuts? Will Midge Purce find a way to use her positional flexibly to make a smaller roster?
These are much harder questions to answer on a smaller eighteen person roster than they would be on a twenty-three person roster. Talent isn’t a question for any of these players. A mix of timing, health and what other players are already on the roster all work against the field players and for the goalkeepers the fact Naeher gets such a large portion of the time in goal makes it a hard race to handicap.
Last Words on the USWNT Olympic Roster
I don’t know who is going to make the USWNT roster for the Olympics I don’t know if going to happen. It does make me feel better that I reasonably believe that Andonovski doesn’t know who is going to make it either.
The NWSL is starting soon and likely the play there will honestly decide who goes to Tokyo this summer. If anyone does at all.