Seven Washington Spirit players will depart the team’s preseason in a week’s time to join the USWNT for the SheBelieves Cup. Ashley Hatch, Aubrey Kingsbury, Kelley O’Hara, Ashley Sanchez, Emily Sonnett, and Andi Sullivan were all named to Vlatko Andonovski’s roster today, while young star Trinity Rodman will join the camp as a “training player,” meaning she will join the team’s camp and participate in their training sessions, but barring an injury, will not be added to the tournament roster.
The SheBelieves Cup begins in two weeks, with matches scheduled for February 17, February 20, and February 23. The first two rounds will be played in Carson, CA at Dignity Health Sports Park, while the final matchday will take place at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX. The USWNT will open the tournament against the Czech Republic, before facing New Zealand three days later and finishing up against Iceland.
Andonovski addressed the choice to bring Rodman in without adding her to the official roster today during a virtual press conference. “I want to say she did well in [January] camp. She was very competitive,” said Andonovski. “She’s been really good in the league. but the national team is a completely different animal, and we don’t want to burn her out.” Andonovski added that he wants her to have time to take on how the USWNT operates “step by step, instead of throwing everything at her.”
The majority of Andonovski’s squad for this tournament participated in the team’s January camp, which only concluded last week. The additions are Becky Sauerbrunn, who missed out due to a knock, and Catarina Macario, who was initially called in last month only to be excused when Olympique Lyon were drawn against their main challenger, Paris Saint-Germain, in the French Cup.
The squad does not include a significant chunk of long-time starters. Sam Mewis is out due to an injury, while veteran stars Julie Ertz (who per an Equalizer Soccer report is not likely to play club soccer this year), Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, and Megan Rapinoe were all left out. Andonovski said that the attackers on that list were left out due to a combination of wanting to give some younger players the chance to prove themselves in a tournament format, and a lack of recent playing time for a group that has for years been the established core of the USWNT attack.
Heath is currently building up her minutes with Arsenal after a lengthy battle with persistent injuries, and recently completed her first start for the Gunners since a mid-October Champions League win over Hoffenheim. Morgan and Rapinoe were starting games for their club sides at the end of the 2021 NWSL season, while Press has not played in a club match since the end of her Manchester United contract last June. She is in camp with Angel City FC as the expansion side begins its 2022 season.
That mindset is an opening for several Spirit players looking to build on a championship season in 2021. Hatch, who followed up her Golden Boot season in league play with goals in each of the last two USWNT games, is making her case now that Carli Lloyd has retired and Morgan is, for the time being at least, not in camp. Sanchez is in a similar place with Samantha Mewis being unavailable, and will be looking to show that she’s serious competition for Rose Lavelle in terms of not just position, but playing style and skillset.
While longtime USWNT regulars O’Hara and Sonnett exceeded the Spirit’s own high expectations down the stretch last year, Sullivan has used a prolonged run of good form and good health to become the recent first-choice defensive midfielder in recent friendlies. Kingsbury, meanwhile, has gotten her third straight camp invite after years of being just barely on the outside, getting the call this time over competitors like Jane Campbell and Ashlyn Harris.
The group will continue to train with the Spirit — who are due to the winter weather conducting their sessions indoors for the time being — in the meantime, getting in one more week of club preseason before departing for California next Thursday. Washington’s 38-player camp roster seems built with this situation in mind, as even with national team departures and potential injuries, they’ll almost certainly have enough players to conduct full intrasquad matches and other exercises that require a large group.
The full U.S. squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
Defenders (8): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)
Midfielders (7): Morgan Gautrat (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
Forwards (5): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current)