The 2019 SheBelieves Cup figures to be the best pre-World Cup test for the United States women’s national team, and Jill Ellis has accordingly announced a 23-woman roster that appears to be her current first-choice squad — save for injured starter Lindsey Horan — rather than an experimental group. Nonetheless, there are some surprise exclusions within this particular round of USWNT call-ups, which will convene ahead of a February 27th tournament-opening game against Japan. The Washington Spirit are represented by Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh, and Andi Sullivan.
Ellis has caught observers off-guard in the past, and this roster is no exception. While Horan is only out due to a quad injury, Morgan Brian’s absence appears to be down to a simple coaching decision. It’s telling that US Soccer, who generally make sure to explain absences that are caused by something other than a coach’s choice, offered nothing on Brian in their announcement. The USWNT have included four additional players to join them for training, but that list (Jane Campbell, Merritt Mathias, Emily Fox, and Allie Long) doesn’t include Brian either.
On the Spirit front, Lavelle appears to be the closest to locking down a starting job as the team’s attacking midfielder, though Ellis fielding Horan in that role and going with a far more defensive midfield trio remains a distinct possibility. Pugh, meanwhile, will be trying to push veterans Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe to become a starter on the wing. She may also be facing a real challenge from Christen Press, who was by some measure the best player on the team in the USWNT’s January camp.
Sullivan’s presence in the final roster counts as something as a surprise after a rough rookie season at the Maryland SoccerPlex. However, she appears to have put her January call-up to good use, and is in the squad ahead of the more experienced Brian and Long. It remains to be seen whether Ellis sees her as a 6 or an 8 in the midfield.
The full roster is as follows:
Defenders (7): Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals FC), Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars)
Midfielders (6): Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), McCall Zerboni (North Carolina Courage), Danielle Colaprico (Chicago Red Stars), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
Forwards (7): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Christen Press (Utah Royals FC), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage)