U.S. Soccer has announced the USWNT squad for two upcoming friendlies against Australia later this month, with Vlatko Andonovski including four Washington Spirit players on his 22-player roster. The Spirit contingent includes Emily Sonnett and Andi Sullivan, who have been regular call-ups of late, while Andonovski has also included NWSL Golden Boot winner Ashley Hatch and young playmaker Ashley Sanchez.
The U.S. will be one of the first sports teams to visit Australia from abroad since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. They’ll play in Sydney on November 27 (which thanks to the time difference will be broadcast on November 26 at 11pm Eastern on Fox Sports 2), and then againin Newcastle on November 30 (4:05am Eastern, ESPN).
Sonnett, who was in the squad for both the 2019 World Cup and this past summer’s Olympics, seems set to continue as a fullback with the national team after appearing as a center back in all but one of her Spirit appearances this season. With only Sofia Huerta and Emily Fox in the squad as full-time players at right or left back, Sonnett is expected to see significant minutes in both matches.
Sullivan, who has scored twice this year as well as forcing an own goal in the last window against South Korea, is likely in line for a similar amount of playing time. The USWNT squad includes six midfielders, but she’s the only natural defensive midfielder in the bunch, with Lindsey Horan the only other option in the squad with experience in that spot.
Sanchez, who has been in prior senior team camps but has yet to receive a cap, was intriguingly listed as a midfielder in the squad. While roster designations have no real bearing on where a player plays, Andonovski told reporters that he sees her versatility as “only positive,” but added that at the moment his vision for her role with the senior team is as an attacking midfielder first and foremost.
“Sanchez is one of the players that we’ve followed very closely throughout the whole season,” said Andonovski. Asked about what areas he felt that she had improved upon this year, he listed her problem-solving in tight spaces, her ability to connect, with the forward line, and that her commitment to defending and covering ground has gone up in 2021.
Hatch, after leading the league in goalscoring and adding her first career NWSL playoff goal this past weekend, may be a factor anywhere across the front line. The Spirit have, as the season has gone on, had her more and more playing left of center and slashing in, but their set-up is a bit different from the USWNT’s more traditional line of three forwards. In discussing Hatch, who is looking to add to her total of 2 caps, Andonovski said “Ashley Hatch, I mean, it’s hard to argue with Ashley Hatch and (her) ability to score goals.”
Andonovski also noted two Spirit absentees: Kelley O’Hara is not available for this camp due to pre-existing family obligations, while Trinity Rodman, in Andonovski’s words, “opted out” of this particular window. In both cases, he said that they are still strongly in consideration for the January 2022 camp roster.
With the Spirit preparing for this Sunday’s NWSL semifinal, it’s worth noting that players on the two teams that make it to the league’s championship final will essentially be getting on a flight shortly thereafter. Australia’s entry requirements, which include a requirement for full vaccination and a strict bubble environment for the U.S. delegation, will leave little time to linger from the final (November 20) and their first game of this trip.
The full squad is as follow:
Goalkeepers (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC)
Defenders (7): Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC)
Midfielders (6): Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 31/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
Forwards (6): Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Lynn Williams (NC Courage), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Bethany Balcer (OL Reign), Morgan Weaver (Portland Thorns)