Since September 2016, the U.S. Women’s National Team has played seven European nations (and Thailand). In less than a month, that list will grow to nine as the USA takes on Sweden in Gothenburg on June 8 and Norway in Sandefjord on June 11.
The USA’s list of European opponents since last fall includes the Netherlands, two matches each against Switzerland and Romania, tough tests against England, France and Germany at the 2017 SheBelieves Cup and another double-dip against Russia in April.
So, besides belonging to the same Confederation, what do eight of these nine European countries have in common? They make up half of the field for 2017 UEFA Women’s EURO tournament taking place this July in the Netherlands. Romania nearly made it into the last 16 as well but fell to Portugal in the playoff for the final spot.
WNT vs. Netherlands, this year's EURO hosts.
The UEFA Women’s EURO is the most prestigious competition for women’s international soccer in Europe and, after the Women’s World Cup and the Olympic Games, the biggest and most competitive women’s international tournament in the world.
And facing the best is precisely what U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis committed to do coming out of the recent Olympic cycle.
“I said it last year, we want our schedule to be aggressive,” Ellis told ussoccer.com. “We’re always trying to play top-10 teams and elite teams. It’s a priority and our Federation knows it’s a priority for our team because it’s in those games where we will see growth. The games against European teams are critical.”
With the next Women’s World Cup in France, surely the European nations – especially France and Germany – will be favorites to lift the trophy in Lyon. By then, the USA clearly will have cut its teeth on European competition.
Including the games against Sweden and Norway, the U.S. will have played exactly half of the EURO field in less than a year, a rarity for most countries both in terms of the high level of opposition and the short amount of time in which the games have taken place.Read more
Here we break down the most recent U.S. WNT camp by the numbers:
2000: U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis called a pair of very young players into the U.S. camp in Texas. The youngest of the two was Sophia Smith. Her birthday of Aug. 8, 2000 made her the first player to be called into a senior WNT event who was born in the new millennium.
98: Caps earned by Ali Krieger. She earned No. 98 after entering the game against on Russia on April 6, playing the final 45 minutes of the match. Krieger would become the 36th woman in WNT history to reach 100 caps.
97: Number of international goals scored by Carli Lloyd. After netting the first U.S. goal in the 5-1 win against Russia on April 9 via the penalty spot, Lloyd is now only three goals away from becoming the sixth player in WNT history to score 100 or more goals for the USA.
On March 4, 2017, midfielder Rose Lavelle made her debut for the U.S. Women’s National Team, going the full 90 minutes against England. Lavelle put in a terrific performance in front of a sold-out Red Bull Arena. The 26,500 fans were easily the largest crowd for which she had ever put her skills on display.
Her play earned her another pair of starts from U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis on March 7 against France and most recently on April 6 and April 9 against Russia, where the wonderfully-skilled Lavelle buzzed around the field and produced several GIF-able moments.
Lavelle also has a unique and endearing personality off the field, making her one of the most exciting young players to watch in the coming months. Here are five things to know about Rose Lavelle:
No. 1 NWSL College Draft Pick
After a standout four-year career at Wisconsin, Lavelle was selected as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2017 NWSL College Draft by the Boston Breakers. Lavelle’s selection marked the fourth consecutive year a U.S. WNT player was chosen with the top pick, following in the footsteps of Crystal Dunn (2014), Morgan Brian (2015) and Emily Sonnett (2016).
While the title of Nutmeg Queen belongs to veteran midfielder Tobin Heath, Lavelle has shown in just a handful of games that she belongs in such an exclusive group. We first saw snippets of her nutmeg skills against England, but it was against Russia however, when Lavelle’s video game-level skills were on full display.
First, she had a spectacular dribble down the end line on the right side early in the game where she pushed a ball past a player, ran around her, then nutmegged a second defender inside the penalty box. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make it past the third and the final piece didn’t materialize. Minutes later, she had another nutmeg, this time with a back-heel pass. The best part? She seems right at home on the field in just her third international appearance.
Making the Jump
Lavelle has had quite a bit of experience at the U-20 international level. In 2014, she was a starter on the USA's U-20 Women's World Cup Team in Canada, scoring a goal in group play against China PR to help the USA to the quarterfinal. The U.S. team went out in PKs to North Korea, but she was one of the USA's most effective players in the tournament. Lavelle also accomplished a remarkable feat at the 2014 CONCACAF U-20 Women's Championship in the Cayman Islands. She did not score a goal or get an assist over the four matches she played in during the tournament as the USA defeated Mexico, 4-0, in the championship game, but her impact on each game on both sides of the ball was so great that she won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player.
Social Media Savvy
While many young players often need training, advice and experience to learn the ins and outs of social media, Lavelle has had an exquisite social media presence for quite a while, particularly on Twitter. Her favorite topics are Wisconsin Badgers sports, the Xavier Men’s Basketball Team, dancing, shenanigans at camp, college homework, and of course, dogs.
5 long awaited years have led to this moment of freedom where Im finally able to bet on my March Madness bracket w/o punishment from NCAA— Rose Lavelle (@roselavelle) March 15, 2017
Rose With Dogs
If you know Rose, you know that she loves dogs, especially bulldogs. In fact, her bulldog Wilma is such a social media presence that fans have created an account for her.
4 words. 9 letters. Say it and I'm yours— Rose Lavelle (@roselavelle) March 6, 2017
"I have a dog"
EVERYBODY MEET WILMA, THE NEWEST MEMBER OF THE LAVELLE FAMILY!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/BS705T1p— Rose Lavelle (@roselavelle) October 26, 2012
Bought Wilma rain boots but she's ungrateful and hates them pic.twitter.com/YLEQNCpYnW— Rose Lavelle (@roselavelle) January 26, 2017
Lavelle is known to often FaceTime with Wilma just to talk to her. She also will request to pet and immediately bond with any dog she might cross paths with. To document this, the hashtag #RoseWithDogs has officially launched on the @ussoccer_wnt Twitter account. If there any dogs you’d like Rose to meet, please tweet us and include the hashtag #RoseWithDogs.
Photos from the U.S. Women's National Team's 4-0 victory against Russia in Frisco, Texas. The WNT controlled the match from start to finish, featuring some excellent play from Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh in front of a sold-out crowd of 15,191 at Toyota Stadium. Crystal Dunn and Allie Long scored two goals each, while Alyssa Naeher earned her eighth shutout.Read more