Following a lame rain-out in the 76th minute in Cleveland today, it's time to make a case for the Rio roster. Only 18 women can be selected, which makes for some rough decisions. Coach Jill Ellis has been playing a few people in different spots to gauge flexibility, but there are only 16 spots to fill, so let's make some cuts. Don't worry, Jill doesn't listen to me, so your favorite player I've cut is probably going to make it.
Solo is going, whether or not she's currently in top form. She rises to the occasion under pressure and is unlikely to lose her spot until she takes some time off. See also: Howard, Timothy.
I'm taking Alyssa Naeher over Ashlyn Harris for zero good reasons. Zero bad reasons. Just a hunch. I think they're both excellent, and would be confident seeing either one between the pipes. However, we've only seen them between the pipes 14 times combined against international opponents, which is flat-out idiotic. Both should have featured on the World Cup Victory Tour and during the She Believes Cup to prepare one or both of them for the future. But Jill apparently has eyes only for Hope Solo, ever. It's her team, and her prerogative.
Let's take 6. We'll only need three center backs. Barring a catastrophe, there is no way BOTH Johnston and Sauerbrunn are off the field at the same time. So, we only need to take one backup. It's Engen. Sonnett is the future here, but not quite yet.
Outside, I'm taking O'Hara, Klingenberg and Krieger. Klingenberg has looked very suspect on defense lately, and has given away a lot of passes, but like Solo, she tends to step up in the spotlight. Here's hoping, because Ellis seems to write KLINGEN... on the team sheet before almost anyone else.
I want 7, and Carli Lloyd isn't one of the 7. This group gives a lot of flexibility to defend, attack, be physical, be creative, and have depth for subbing without losing anything. A few of these women aren't currently at 100%, so they'll have backup if they regress or get re-injured.
Horan. Brian. Heath. Pugh. Mewis. O'Reilly. Rapinoe.
Yes, Heather O'Reilly. Tireless, explosive, tenacious, elbow-slicing Heather O'Reilly. Has. To. Happen.
Jill is probably taking Long instead of Mewis, and Sonnett instead of O'Reilly. Rapinoe may not be fully fit and might get left out. If she's not ready, I'll add Long.
Three forwards: Obviously, Carli Lloyd is going to Rio! Carli Lloyd can play anywhere up top or in the midfield, but she's best when she's bombing forward or combining with Alex Morgan to create moments of magic. Christen Press fills out the forward ranks, and can also be put in at midfield if Pugh is selected up top. Lloyd and Morgan could get the night off in group play if necessary—imagine Rapinoe and Pugh feeding Press with O'Hara serving crosses to 9-foot tall Sammy Mewis. Gold.
Crystal Dunn loses her spot in my roster. I'm not sure who I'd cut to keep her. Jill will probably cut O'Reilly to take Dunn. She might not take O'Reilly even if she does take Dunn. I wrote a little more on Dunn (and Long), here. She's an undeniable talent, but she's probably the 19th most important person to take to Rio, IMO. Hate away.
More Friendlies Coming:
Good news! There will be two more friendly matches before the USWNT heads to Rio.
On July 9th at Noon Central Time in Chicago, they'll host South Africa. The second game is TBA. After that, it's all a build-up to August 3rd in Belo Horizonte where the 18 will face New Zealand to start group play.