U.S. WNT coach Jill Ellis has called U17 star Ashley Sanchez into the full national team as part of a 23 player roster set to challenge Colombia in a pair of April friendlies.
Sanchez is one of just two new faces introduced into the side that defeated three of the top teams in the world to win the inaugural SheBelieves Cup earlier this month.
Portland Thorns midfielder Allie Long, who earned four caps back in 2014, is the other newcomer while Seattle Reign defender Lauren Barnes is the lone player from the tournament not recalled for the Colombia series by Ellis.
Ellis used the SheBelieves Cup, which featured top ranked opponents Germany, France, and England and the CONCACAF Championship/ Olympic Qualifiers held in February as something of a steel cage match for her players to fight for positions and playing time at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Sanchez and Long have arrived late to the party and will have work to do if they are to emerge with one of 18 precious Olympic roster spots but Pugh’s rapid ascent shows that the coach is willing to look beyond the tried and true and that Ellis is unafraid to play a youngster over established veterans.
“We don’t have that many international matches before the Olympics, so every game takes on increased importance as far as the performance of the players, the evolution of the relationships among the positions and the overall growth of the team,” said Ellis in a statement released by U.S. Soccer. “Most of the players will be coming in from NWSL pre-seasons so we expect everyone to be sharp and we are looking forward to the challenges that a team like Colombia will present as we continue our Olympic preparations.”
The U.S. and Colombia have played each other just three times and this will be the first friendly between the teams. The Americans won all three previous encounters, 3-0 in group play at the 2011 World Cup, 3-0 again at the Olympics the following year, also in group play, and most recently a contentious 2-0 U.S. win at the 2015 World Cup.
The upcoming Olympics has ramped up interest in these friendlies with the April 10th game in Chester, Pennsylvania already a sell out while U.S. Soccer has announced that over 18,000 seats have been sold for the first match on April 6th at the much larger Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (8): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City)
FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado), Ashley Sanchez (So Cal Blues)