RIO 2016 Roster Thoughts

Alex & Tobin are going to the Olympics

Alex & Tobin are going to the Olympics

US Soccer launched its media email enumerating the 18 members and four alternates of the 2016 USWNT Olympic roster at noon eastern on Tuesday, and by the time it made its way to me, Twitter already had it. Speedy, speedy Twitter. 

So let's take a look at the team. It's not the team I would have picked, but I wasn't surprised by any of the selections. Ellis had the following to say after the announcement (video courtesy of U.S. Soccer/Wazee Digital):

Courtesy of U.S. Soccer/Wazee Digital. 

Goal:

Newly-minted 100 clean sheet superstar Hope Solo and her more frequently but barely ever used backup Alyssa Naher edged out Ashlyn Harris, who gets one of the four alternate spots. 

Defense:

Whitney Engen's solid play in limited minutes (plus her leadership at the Boston Breakers) was enough to secure for her the final defensive spot, plopping the talented rookie Thorn Emily Sonnett on the alt. squad for one more tournament. Engen will back up Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston, while Kelley O'Hara, Ali Krieger and Megan Klingenberg will share their minutes running up and down the end lines. O'Hara can also move up to the wing (or even forward) if needed, so she's likely to be on the field a lot. 

Midfield:

Megan Rapinoe is back from her Hawaiian misadventure of the ligament kind with a full roster spot. I suspect we'll see her eased into the games, but what a super sub she could be. Her inclusion kicks Heather O'Reilly to an alternate spot. O'Reilly isn't exactly like-for-like if you watch them play, but she's the better fit than Mewis on the outside, so if Pinoe has a setback, I suspect HAO will be ready to go. Sam Mewis has a future at this level, but it's as an alternate this time, as Allie Long's strong spring and dominant Thorns season locked down a full spot beside Lindsay Horan. Ellis favorite Morgan Brian never had to worry about her spot despite having ham salad for hamstrings most of the year (she's still not ready to go), and Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath were similar no-brainer locks for the midfield. Heath has been a beast in the NWSL, but Lloyd hasn't played much after a knee issue suffered with the Houston Dash (and she's been desperately missed at the Dash).

Forward:

After missing the world cup expanded roster (which, P.S., was a bit bloated with legacy choices, if we're being completely honest), Crystal Dunn secured her spot this year for the Olympics. That's cool, but not nearly as exciting as Mallory Pugh getting the nod. She plays with Pinoe's vision and body control and balance that is exceedingly rare. Here's hoping she can stay healthy for a long time. Alex Morgan and Christen Press will be the top two strikers in all likelihood. I'm a tad concerned about how much size we're giving away at forward, though Pugh is already incredibly good at playing like a physically larger player. Morgan gets blown up a lot, and Dunn and Press occasionally get the ball stuck underneath themselves (though not as often as last year). But this is the team, and I'm excited to see what they can do.

Flexibility:

With only 16 field players from which Ellis must select 10 for each match, flexibility played a big role in her final cuts. Again, from this afternoon (Video courtesy of U.S. Soccer/Wazee Digital).

Video courtesy of U.S. Soccer/Wazee Digital.

Bring it on:

Horan should be a force to be reckoned with against smaller, slower sides. If she can stay out of card trouble (Tobin too, for that matter), she may be the player people are talking about as the tournament progresses. And Pugh. And Tobin. Hopefully all for good reasons. I'd guess Pinoe, Lloyd and Brian take their time getting fully healthy while the others work out the kinks against South Africa during their July 22nd send-off match in Kansas City.

August 3rd at 7PM, the USWNT face off against New Zealand to kick off group play. On the 6th at 5pm, we'll get a harder test against one of the toughest teams in the Olympics. France. Yes, the same France we beat in the She Believes Cup. Three days later, on the 9th at 6pm, it's that familiar pesky Colombia side to close out the group. Hopefully their association will have paid them by then.

Can't wait!