United States head coach Jill Ellis has named a 22-player roster for the USWNT’s upcoming pair of friendlies against Mexico, and the list includes three Washington Spirit players. The surprise, though, is which three players are included. Mallory Pugh and Andi Sullivan are included as one would expect, but defender Taylor Smith has been dropped. Ashley Hatch, meanwhile, has been called in for a second camp in a row after not being called in at all throughout 2017. Spirit midfielder Rose Lavelle is not available due to her ongoing recovery from a hamstring injury.
Smith being left out comes after she was subbed off in the 43rd minute of the 1-1 SheBelieves Cup draw with France, a move Ellis later said was simply down to performance. Smith didn’t play in the tournament finale against England, but few would have expected Ellis to go from seeing Smith as first choice to not even in the squad so quickly.
The USWNT does have options at right back, including moving Kelley O’Hara over and starting Casey Short on the left, or playing center back Emily Sonnett there, or giving some minutes to conversion project Sofia Huerta (a forward/wide midfielder for the Chicago Red Stars), but it’s still jarring to see Ellis, who generally makes few changes to her squad, make such an abrupt move.
Meanwhile, Hatch appears to have done enough during the SheBelieves Cup training sessions to keep herself in the picture. The former North Carolina Courage striker will be looking to take advantage of the absence of Christen Press to establish herself as an option up front. Hatch has experience playing both as a center forward or out on the right side of a 433, which appears to be the formation for the USWNT going forward. It stands to reason that Alex Morgan will start both games against Mexico, but with Lynn Williams seemingly preferred as a wide player and Savannah McCaskill playing mostly as a midfielder of late, there appears to be a path for Hatch to get minutes in these games.
Pugh and Sullivan have more defined roles. Ellis seems more or less set on Pugh playing as the right forward in a starting trio that includes Morgan (center) and Megan Rapinoe (left). Sullivan is less sure of a starting spot, but with Julie Ertz and Samatha Mewis both injured, the only player truly comfortable in an anchor midfield role in this squad is Morgan Brian. Sullivan could play there or in the #8 role, and seems like a fair bet to play at least some role in both matches.
The full roster is as follows:
Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Tierna Davidson (Stanford University), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars); Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals FC), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
Forwards: Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit); Savannah McCaskill (Sky Blue FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage)