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Ellis starts 2017 with blank slate for all USWNT players

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Ellis continues to use this low-pressure time to evaluate her roster; meanwhile no updates from Sauerbrunn on the new CBA.

Soccer: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The US women’s national team is in the midst of their first camp of 2017, held over January 13- 23 in Carson, California.

In many ways the team is in a bit of limbo between their ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations with US Soccer and the lack of any games until the beginning of March, when they kick off the SheBelieves tournament against France, Germany, and England.

Team co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn was tight-lipped about those CBA negotiations. “We’re not really talking too much about it to the media,” she said before practice on Friday. “We’re keeping it pretty internal as of right now. We’re just really looking forward to getting back to the table and negotiating with US Soccer.” Sauerbrunn was also unable to say whether negotiations would affect WNT players being in preseason for their NWSL clubs.

Meanwhile, a bevy of new and younger faces were in camp, adding to the feeling that things are turning over in 2017 and the team is preparing a new cycle for the 2019 World Cup. That included five U23 players, added to the senior team camp by Ellis, both for evaluation and to help fill out full 11 v 11 training games.

Of those U23s, Mandy Freeman joined teammates Rose Lavelle, Jane Campbell, and Christina Gibbons as NWSL rookies who had been drafted to teams just the day before. Freeman went tenth overall in the draft, while Campbell went fifteenth, Gibbons went fifth, and Lavelle was the number one pick.

“We’re obviously happy for Rose,” said Ellis of Lavelle going at number one. “It’s important that our players have another platform, so to go now and become a professional I think is only going to help us down the line. But yeah we were obviously happy, a round of applause at the meeting. Excited for her. It’s a start of a new journey.”

Sauerbrunn was also pleased for Lavelle, though she laughed when asked if the team had teased Lavelle over it. “Well I feel like we always have number one draft picks coming into camp, you know. You had [Emily] Sonnett and Morgan [Brian]. You just have players that they’re used to it. But it’s great for Rose. I think she’s really excited about going to Boston. She’s a great player and I think she’s going to help that program out a lot.”

Also back in camp is forward Amy Rodriguez after the birth of her second child. “The beauty of where she’s coming in is everybody’s starting with a clean slate,” Ellis said. “The message has been across the board. I think she’s coming in with an opportunity like everybody else to kind of show what she’s got. I know she’s been working fairly hard, but it’s a very very competitive spot in the nine. Same for all of them. They’ve got to come out and show what they’ve got.”

With SheBelieves over a month away and no friendlies in the meantime, Ellis will take the time to evaluate many different options, but she was clearly interested in testing out those options under real conditions. “I think I would like to have had a game prior to SheBelieves,” she said. “It’s a big tournament. We’re definitely going to go into that tournament – obviously we want to win it – but we want to get some answers and see some things and test ourselves. I think having a game at the end of this camp would have been a great way to finish it, but it is what it is so we’ll just make do.... Some of these players have started to break their way in a little bit, you’ve got to see them against the top teams to see if the investment is to continue.”

Still, it is over two years until summer of 2019, and SheBelieves will only be the first step in putting together a roster. For now, Ellis’ 35-player camp with its mix of veterans and rookies is one of the more diverse WNT rosters in a while, a trend which will hopefully continue in the near future.

Full WNT camp roster by position:

GOALKEEPERS (5): Jane Campbell (Stanford), Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Casey Murphy (Rutgers), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (8): Mandy Freeman (USC), Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (13): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tierna Davidson (Stanford), Kristen Edmonds (Orlando Pride), Christina Gibbons (Duke), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Sarah Killion (Sky Blue FC), Rose Lavelle (Wisconsin), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC), Taylor Smith (Western New York Flash)

FORWARDS (9): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea Ladies FC, ENG), Savannah McCaskill (South Carolina), Jessica McDonald (Western New York Flash), Alex Morgan (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA), Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash), Brianna Pinto, Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Lynn Williams (Western New York Flash)