U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis selected 20 players for the upcoming 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, which kicks off Oct. 15 against Trinidad & Tobago at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
The USA’s depth and extensive talent pool will bode well for a variety of reasons, particularly with three games and extensive travel over a six-day stretch at the group stage. It also means finding the proper balance of rotating players while finding some continuity in the lineup during the tournament.
“There are a lot of moving parts of just how we have to move around the country in the short period,” Ellis said during the U.S. WNT’s conference call on Monday following the roster announcement. “High focus will be on recovery. I’m definitely at a point with the players where I want to start to build continuity. I think the way we play, there will be a high-volume workload at certain positions. I’m going to be sensitive to that. We’re expecting a lot from our outside backs and our wide forwards, but I think trying to build a corps consistent group will be a big part of it for me.”
Ellis has put a premium on versatility in making selections for her roster, both from a positional and systematic standpoint.
“I think that most of our players, when I went through the list, versatility was one of the determining factors, especially when it came down to the last spots,” Ellis said. “I think that’s going to be very important. You take a player like Crystal Dunn, she can play multiple positions for us and while primarily we’re going to look at her as an outside back, I think we can have that flexibility. Certainly with getting out of the friendly mode where you can have six subs and now getting into the three subs, it’s very important for us.”
Boasting an offense that has outscored its opposition 48-11 this year, many eyes will be focused on the USA’s attack. Sydney Leroux leads the USA with eight goals this year, followed by Abby Wambach’s seven goals and a trio of players tied with five goals – Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Christen Press. Amy Rodriguez, who has two goals for the U.S. WNT this year, was the top-scoring American in the NWSL this season and scored three goals in the playoffs as she helped lead FC Kansas City to the title.
Press has only started in eight of the USA’s 15 games this year, but she has been a prime example of someone who is willing to wear multiple hats in the team’s offensive third.
“She’s done very well since I’ve taken over,” Ellis said. “She’s a player that has great flexibility. She’s good face-up, she can play wide, she can play centrally, off the line or make runs from behind. She’s very versatile.”
Because of the USA’s scoring depth and the increased role of the WNT’s outside backs, that has also defined the role of players such as all-time goal scoring leader Wambach. Wambach has played in more of a deeper role in recent games, and Ellis said that allows her to focus more centrally in the attack.
“We don’t need her making hard runs out into wide areas because we’re playing with a little more width and we’re asking more of our outside backs,” Ellis said. “Abby can really operate between the width of the 18 and maybe even slightly narrower, so I think it’s been good. We want balls getting wide, her getting at the end of it and also combining and helping our wide players get in.”