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Jill Ellis sounds off on her USWNT Olympic roster decisions

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Why Ellis chose some players and put others on the alternate list

South Africa v United States Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

USWNT head coach Jill Ellis gave a 45-minute conference call after US Soccer released the 2016 Olympic roster. During the conference she was asked to justify or expand on her reasons for taking certain players while putting others on the alternate list. You can find her quotes on Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and more below.

Morgan Brian

“I got a report on [Morgan Brian] yesterday. She’s actually doing workouts now. I think it’s other hamstring. I think earlier it was one and she was down in Houston and the call I got was it was the other leg. So same type of injury but not the same leg. I know our training staff, our medical staff, will work really really hard with her. I think with Moe coming out of that last game against South Africa it just wasn’t worth it, it’s not worth the risk right now to push it. It’s more about making sure it’s a 100% and build her as well, and that’s what the process is now. I think in Los Angeles she’s gonna start to just build on that. But she’s on the mend for sure.”

Crystal Dunn

“Certainly I look at the league play but ultimately it’s what is she doing in here against other national teams, against her teammates in training. She’s been very consistent and done very well. I don’t know if she’s got a slightly different role, I think she played central a lot more last year, with Mark Parsons. I think she’s more of a wide player for Jim Gabarra. ...it doesn’t bother me in terms of, is she not scoring goals. As long as she’s playing well and contributing.”

Lindsey Horan

“I think with Lindsey her performances, yes she’s had some tremendous performances. I think the consistency piece is something that is going to come in time. But she’s an incredibly focused player. She works hard, she’s very coachable. And so I think for her it’s the speed of play is pretty fast when you’re in this environment. You know the tempo is different when she played over in Europe; international soccer is a lot more transition. So I think just continuing for her, she’s very very skillful. So now I think with Lindsey it’s just decision making and that comes with experience and that comes with time. So I think in terms of her role, again whether she starts or comes in off the bench I think she’s gonna give us a nice attacking presence in the air. I think she’s got great distribution. She’s willing to fight for the ball, so I think she’s pretty balanced in her play.

Meghan Klingenberg

“If Meghan is in a good place mentally and physically she’s gonna give us her very best. How has she grown form last year? I think little nuanced ways, but I think overall she’s had to play with different players wide, I think she’s built good relationship with Tobin, but also she loves playing with Mal and she’s played with Megan Rapinoe in the past. So I think her ability to play off the other wide players and play with them is pretty good. i thinks she’s got great feet and I think she’s a great little defender, so I think she’s pretty balanced for the Olympics.”

Ashlyn Harris vs Alyssa Naeher

“I think in the Christmas break Ash had had some work on her knee done and I think she was behind but she certainly grained ground. In that period Alyssa did well, played in some games, and it was more about she...hadn’t done anything to lose it. But it was a tough decision.”

Allie Long

“I had Allie initially when I took over the team. Many players, they come in and it’s not immediate success, and they go and they recommit themselves and I think Allie did that. I think she worked very very hard in terms of her fitness base, in terms of her game, in terms of reading what we’re asking our six to do at the time. And when I brought her back in, she seemed to play with a lot of confidence...we’re playing with three in the midfield now, so that certainly opens up another spot, and needing depth and needing some experience in there. I think Allie fills those roles. She’s comfortable in the six, she’s comfortable playing up in the eight, her hardness, and she doesn’t get rattled at all.”

Alex Morgan

“I think the window in between [2012 and now] is the interesting window because I think in 2012 Alex was healthy, fit, scoring goals in the bushels, and then she went through a period of some injuries, and so I think last year was a hard year. So again the similarity now is, I feel that she’s healthy, she’s fit, she’s mentally in a good place, she’s scoring goals, and so I think it’s a lot of similar feelings in terms of how she felt in 2012 to now. But in her game I think she has grown in terms of her movement, her running off the ball, her timing, her touch. I think she’s making strides in that area. We’re going to play a little bit differently. [In the 2012 Olympics] it was running on to flicks, chasing balls down, and now we still want her to penetrate and we still want her to make runs in behind, but now the ball’s coming in the box to her, she’s gonna get a lot more service.”

Christen Press

“Press played in the 10 against Japan in our second game. I thought she was fantastic. She finds good holes. Against South Africa she picked up the ball quite a lot, was able to turn. I think if I don’t go specifically to position, then I say is Press able to play behind the line, in front of the line? Yes. She’s very comfortable coming back to ball and also penetrating without the ball. So what does that then lend itself to? Well I think she can play certainly in the nine, where we’re looking for a lot of penetration. I actually think she’s stronger this year. I think she’s really committed to her fitness. I think she’s done actually really well in wide areas as well. I think playing a three front helps her because that wide player can stay wide and look to get in behind without the ball. ...she’s always making sure she makes a commitment to her defensive presence, I think she’s done that.”

Carli Lloyd

“Carli played a 100% in our training. Her fitness is great. She’s going full into tackles,” Ellis said. “And even with Megan we got her into contact, she played, and I think that was the important piece, is are they willing to take a tackle. Because Megan does have an impact to her in terms of what she can give us in set pieces and her crossing, she’s one of the best crossers in the world.”

Kelley O’Hara

“She’s emerged as one of our more senior players. She brings a great energy to practice, a hardness about her. So her intangibles are very very high as well. I think as the profile changes a little bit and we really spent a lot of time working on organized attack, I think that's where Kelley's role kind of grew, and I think she fell into it nicely. I think last year she was a spark plug, this year she’s incredibly fit. She’s going to have to bring sustained energy and make sure she’s good both sides of the ball, but I think she’s got a lot to offer this team. She’s been patient but persistent in terms of hunting down a starting spot, been incredibly competitive. I’m obviously pleased for her but you’re right, I can play her left side, right side, I can play her as a higher wide player.”

Heather O’Reilly

“I think we just added more depth to that position,” Ellis said. “It’s made it a lot more competitive with Mal’s emergence and Dunn, these are two players that weren’t even in the mix last year. Tobin’s form, Pinoe being in - I think it’s the hardest position to make on our team because of our depth. Press can even play wide. [O’Reilly] had a tough job and she gave everything she possibly could. She’s extraordinary. She hunted it down to the very last day. So I feel obviously I know HAO’s disappointed that she’s not gonna be in the 18 but I know that she’s going to help us be successful down there.”

Mallory Pugh

“I think for a player that age it has to be a combination of their soccer ability and their psychological profile. Because some players might be talented but just emotionally can’t deal with the competitiveness . So I think Mal has just a great combination of what she can do on the field and I’ve said a couple times, there’s ice in her veins. She does’t get rattled, she's very competitive, always has a big smile on her face. She’s having fun. She’s enjoying it. So I think for her, I think probably if you were to ask her I think the hardest part of this was probably January, where she came in, didn’t know people, socially it was very different in terms of other players in there. She just didn’t know any of them. I think she’s settled in. I think her performances on the field and on the training ground have earned the respect of her peers, her teammates, and now she’s just one of the players on the team and players give her a hard time, but that’s a good thing because they give everyone a hard time, so they don’t treat her any differently.

Megan Rapinoe

“[Megan’s] got a little bit of a quad pull. She took a bunch of corner kicks, got a little bit of a quad strain, and that’s why we didn’t have her in the game against South Africa. But she showed me that physically her fitness level is good, she’s strong.”

“...now you travel with these alternates which you can replace any time obviously if it’s a medical situation, so you know you have that in your back pocket,” said Ellis. “Hopefully don’t need that but I think the plan for Megan is, we’ve gotta build her in this tournament much like we did with Alex [Morgan]. With Alex she hadn’t played for three weeks going in before the World Cup and the plan was just to bring her along and if we had her before the quarters, that would be a bonus. I think for Megan it’s in this tournament at each game we’ve just gotta start to build her. I’ve said this - is she gonna be able to play 90 minutes in six games? Of course not. But I think her special qualities, also you know what she brings in terms of her personality, her leadership, off the field...it was a tough decision in terms of would she be back in time for contact but once I saw her in contact it wasn’t a hard decision.”

Becky Sauerbrunn

“I think consistency in a starting position gives Becky confidence. I think Becky certainly believes in herself but I think the validation of her coaches also believing in her just propels her to unbelievable performances.... I think she’s grown a lot just in terms of, back then she had [Christie] Rampone and Rampone was kind of calling the shots in terms of the line, and now she’s in the driver’s seat. So she’s grown in that role. She’s now our captain. So she’s definitely emerged coming out of the Olympics in London to be just an integral part of this team. She’s not on the periphery of the conversation. She’s a massive piece of why we were successful last year and hopefully this year.”