With just over a month left before the start of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, the current champions have announced their 23-player roster as they look to retain their title.
The United States Women's National Team are one of the favorites going into the tournament being hosted by France this summer, despite their stumbles since their previous World Cup triumph in 2015. The players named by Jill Ellis to the roster are those she firmly believes will lead them to glory once again.
Surprise call ups are at the forefront
Although most of the 23-player roster was a foregone conclusion based on those who had featured for the USWNT over the last four years, Ellis did bring some surprising names into the mix once again. Ali Krieger is the most visible surprise going forward as she had been left out of the USWNT for close to four years now but was recently brought back into the fold by Jill Ellis. Krieger, according to Ellis, is there to provide leadership and depth to the backline but one has to wonder why Ellis decided to not give the likes of Casey Short or Arin Wright more than a cursory glance if she was looking for depth especially at the full back position. That is not to say that Krieger is undeserving of the call up but many were bemused as to what had changed in Ellis' eyes about Krieger's game to make her a viable option for the team when Ellis herself had deemed her surplus to requirements over the last few years.
The other big surprise named to the roster is that of Jessica McDonald. McDonald has become a pivotal player for the North Carolina Courage during their rise to success in the National Women's Soccer League and, although McDonald has been called up before by Ellis, it seemed as though the USWNT head coach was still unsure if McDonald could translate her club success onto the international stage. That question has been answered by Ellis and McDonald will now be headed to France along with the rest of the team. At 31 years old, McDonald has had to wait a long time to feature heavily for the national team but her performances for the Courage have earned her the chance to prove herself against the best in the world.
The absences may prove to be better choices than those headed to France
Rosters are never an easy thing to dissect and any selection will have question marks over it no matter what a head coach decides. This is not different with Jill Ellis as many have questioned her player choices in certain areas and who she has decided to call up. The full back depth has already been addressed above but the other question lingering for most people is that of the selection of Morgan Brian or Allie Long over McCall Zerboni. Zerboni, like McDonald, has risen in prominence with the Courage and her midfield performances for both club and country have shown her to be a useful option for a World Cup squad. Instead, Zerboni is on the outside looking in as Ellis has decided to go with two players who have been in and out of her consideration over the last year or so.
Brian was a key piece in the USWNT's 2015 World Cup triumph and has started well with the Chicago Red Stars this season, and while Long has had inconsistent performances with the USWNT, she remains a reliable backup for the USWNT if needed. These are all reasonable explanations for their inclusions over Zerboni but with how well Zerboni adapted to playing on the world stage, her absence could prove to be a telling one for the USWNT if they do not retain their title.
Full 23-player roster
Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC).
Midfielders: Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Allie Long (Reign FC), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage).
Forwards: Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Utah Royals FC), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC).