Jill Ellis has named a 22 player squad to face off against the Lady Ferns of New Zealand in a pair of friendlies on September 15, at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado and September 19, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The matches are the first for the U.S. since the team’s second place finish at the inaugural Tournament of Nations, where the Americans finished second.
The U.S. began the event on a bad note, losing for the first time to Australia. When the Yanks fell behind Brazil 3-1 it looked bleak for the host nation. The U.S. stormed back to beat Brazil 4-3 and went on to dominate Japan 3-0 to end the tournament on an up note.
But coming on the heels of an embarrassing last place finish in the SheBelieves Cup in March Jill Ellis’ odd lineup choices raised some eyebrows.
The most glaring was playing Becky Sauerbrunn at defensive midfield. The co-captain looked out of sorts when played there and with Julie (Johnson) Ertz available and operating successfully at that position for the Chicago Red Stars, Ellis’ experiment seemed senseless.
Ertz eventually got her shot in front of the back four and was excellent. Good enough, one would think to get an extended run at the position. With Ashlyn Harris unavailable through injury, Ellis played Alyssa Naeher exclusively in the goal. Naeher had some shaky moments and with two other keepers on the roster, it was surprising that neither got a look.
Harris is back and should provide needed competition at the goalkeeper position. Also returning from injury are Tobin Heath, Morgan Brian, and Rose Lavelle. Megan Rapinoe played at the TON and was perhaps the best U.S. player but Rapinoe subsequently picked up an injury and missed time with the Seattle Reign. good news for Ellis is that Pinoe will be available for selection to face New Zealand.
Carli Lloyd will miss out with an ankle injury, always a big loss.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars;18/0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 1/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 13/0)
DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 7/0), Tierna Davidson (Stanford; 0/0), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 51/9), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC; 99/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 129/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 13/0), Taylor Smith (NC Courage; 3/0)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars; 67/6), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 131/18), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 37/3), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers; 6/2), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 30/5), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 28/5), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 123/33)
FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC; 54/22), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 128/74), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars; 90/43), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 26/5), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 10/2)