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January USWNT roster includes four Washington Spirit players

Bledsoe, O’Hara, Sonnett, and Sullivan are all in Vlatko Andonovski’s first squad of 2021

Xavi Dussaq / Courtesy of Washington Spirit

The Washington Spirit have no fewer than four players on the latest USWNT roster. Vlatko Andonovski’s 27-player squad will take on Colombia in two friendlies, both taking place at Exploria Stadium in Orlando. The squad will convene on January 9 before games on January 18 and January 22.

New acquisitions Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett will be joined by Aubrey Bledsoe and Andi Sullivan in camp, which is the first chance to impress Andonovski in a vital year for the national team. For Sullivan, the call-up is her first since a knee injury suffered during the Challenge Cup this past summer.

With the Olympics scheduled to begin in late July, the competition for spots on the final 18-player roster will be fierce. O’Hara, a starter whenever healthy, appears to have the most solid hold on a ticket to Tokyo. She has remained Andonovski’s first-choice right back, and given her long history of versatility, it would be a major surprise if she were to end up out the outside looking in.

Versatility is also a major plus for Sonnett’s case. With Olympic rosters being unreasonably small, players who can capably fill multiple roles are even more important than they normally are, and Sonnett is the USWNT’s defensive Swiss army knife. However, she will still probably have to battle past competition like Tierna Davidson, Ali Krieger, and Midge Purce, as a contingent of just five or six defenders is highly likely.

Bledsoe and Sullivan have more difficult battles ahead of them. For Bledsoe, at least, the task has clarity: Alyssa Naeher is the locked-in starter, and Andonovski has indicated that there is a pool of five candidates to back her up. Bledsoe, Jane Campbell, and Ashlyn Harris are the other goalkeepers in camp, but players like AD Franch and Casey Murphy are likely also under consideration.

Speaking with reporters today, Andonovski acknowledged that he is considering giving some minutes to someone other than Naeher during the friendlies that conclude this camp:

Sullivan’s path to a roster spot is a bit more complicated. There is the straightforward aspect of there simply being a lot of excellent central midfielders that can play as the no. 6 or no. 8, with Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Kristie Mewis, and Jaelin Howell all in camp as well. Playing better than most of the names on that list will be job number one.

Ertz, who plays as a center back virtually full-time for the Chicago Red Stars, may be the hinge point here. If Sullivan’s play deep in the midfield impresses Andonovski enough, he may opt to to carry one fewer defender (because Ertz could move back), which could open up one more midfield roster opening for Sullivan.

Elsewhere, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd are back in the squad after long spells away due to injury and preferring not to travel due to Covid-19 concerns. They join a core of forwards that does not include Alex Morgan, who revealed yesterday that she had tested positive for Covid-19, or Manchester United duo Tobin Heath and Christen Press (both of whom, according to US Soccer’s release, opted to remain with their club).

The full roster is as follows:

Goalkeepers (4): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride)

Defenders (10): Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Fox (UNC), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC)

Midfielders (8): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Catarina Macario (Stanford), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit), Jaelin Howell (Florida State)

Forwards (5): Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)