The U.S. Women’s National Team will finish its 2017 schedule with a pair of matches against Korea Republic in October and two more – one home and one away -- against Canada in November.
With only about a year until the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament commences, this U.S. team has come a long way since the new cycle began back in October of 2016 as many new faces have been integrated with World Cup and Olympic veterans.
Everyone in the sport is fully aware that women’s soccer is continuing to grow rapidly around the world. Since the new cycle began for the U.S. WNT, head coach Jill Ellis’ has held firmly to her philosophy of building for the future while investing in players that could be make an impact two years from now when the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in France. There have been quite a few new faces called into the WNT during the start of this cycle and 12 have earned a first cap in the last 12 months.
Players Called Into a U.S. WNT Event Since October of 2016
- Number of Total Players called in: 47
- Number of New Players called in: 22
- Number of Players to earn First Caps: 12 – Abby Dahlkemper, Ashley Hatch, Andi Sullivan, Casey Short, Jane Campbell, Jessica McDonald, Kealia Ohai, Lynn Williams, Megan Oyster, Rose Lavelle, Sofia Huerta and Taylor Smith.
Veterans Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath & Morgan Brian celebrate with newcomers Lynn Williams & Andi Sullivan on Oct. 19, 2016 after Williams scored her first WNT goal in her first cap.
While the newer players continue to work towards solidifying their positions in the player pool, some veterans have also found their groove in the past few months, especially in the center midfield where players have been embracing roles they could be asked to play moving forward.
In the most recent games against New Zealand in September, Samantha Mewis, Lindsey Horan and Julie Ertz performed admirably, showing the qualities that could help power the USA’s engine in the middle in the months to come. It’s also worth noting that Mewis, Horan and Ertz are only 25, 23 and 25-years-old, respectively.
“The consistency she’s had with her club team has given her confidence,” Ellis said of Horan. “She’s coming (to the WNT environment) and playing in a position where she’s comfortable and a good fit, with her feet and her ability to read the game and obviously, her aerial presence. Lindsey is hitting her mark, so I’m really pleased for her.”
In just her second year in the league, 23-year-old Horan has adjusted well to her role in Portland, and has transferred that success to the National Team.
“[Julie], she’s everywhere,” Ellis said of her defensive midfielder in both games vs. Zealand. “The more she’s growing in the role (with the WNT), the more she can contribute. It’s not just breaking up plays but also getting the ball and setting play. The other night she scored some great goals [a brace against New Zealand on Sept. 15] so I think the defensive midfield position is a comfortable fit for her.”
Mewis’ role within the WNT has grown exponentially this year. Both for club and country, she has played in every game each team has contested so far this season. Out of the 24 games in the NWSL regular season and the possible 2,160 minutes, she was on the field for 2,097. For the U.S., out of 1,080 minutes, she’s played 980. Her vision in the middle has been crucial in maintaining possession and finding space in which to create and attack. Her teammates trust her and her coaches trust her. Mewis matured on and off the field, carrying herself with a composure and confidence beyond her years which has made her one of the young leaders on the U.S. team.
Mewis and Ertz are two of the pieces that are providing the U.S. with a dangerous attack in the middle.
As the October matches approach, Ellis and her staff continue to build the team as the march towards World Cup qualifying continues. In a year that was dedicated to looking at players, testing those players against elite competition, and setting a foundation for 2018 and 2019, all the boxes are getting checked.
“We really have taken on a lot this year,” said Ellis. “I challenged my players and our staff with our agenda of things we wanted to accomplish as well as the level of competition we’ve faced, but I believe it will pay dividends down the line because we’ve gotten younger players experience against the very best teams and that’s extremely valuable. We found ways to win in Europe, we’ve experienced coming from behind, and we’ve seen first-hand the current level of some the top teams in the world. If we are dominating teams, we don’t experience those feelings. We know this is a transition period, and we know there would be challenges, but we’ve gotten a lot out of it. These are great games to finish the year on a positive note and get ready to head into 2018 and toward World Cup qualifying.”