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Ali Krieger returns to USWNT as Jill Ellis names April training camp roster

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Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

Colombia v USA: Women’s Football - Olympics: Day 4 Photo by Bruno Zanardo/Getty Images

Jill Ellis has named her 24-player training camp roster ahead of the United States’ upcoming April friendlies against Australia and Belgium.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 20/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 41/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 35/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 17/1), Crystal Dunn (NC Courage; 80/24), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride; 98/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC; 153/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 27/0), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC; 30/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 77/18), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 64/7), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit; 23/6), Allie Long (Reign FC; 40/6), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 45/8), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 11/0), McCall Zerboni (NC Courage; 8/0)

FORWARDS (7): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 146/27), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 269/105), Jessica McDonald (NC Courage; 6/1), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 158/99), Christen Press (Utah Royals FC; 111/47), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 48/13), Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC; 149/43)

Returning to the roster is Lindsey Horan, who was sorely missed during SheBelieves as she recovered from a quad injury. Also returning is Allie Long, who got cut from the pre-SheBelieves training camp roster and hasn’t been particularly involved in the US’ midfield setup of late. With Sam Mewis, McCall Zerboni, and Andi Sullivan all also in camp, Long probably won’t be moving up the pecking order short of a truly breakout camp performance.

The major surprise addition to this roster is fullback Ali Krieger, although perhaps not that surprising taking into account the fact that Kelley O’Hara is out with an ankle issue. Krieger hasn’t played a game for the USWNT since April 6, 2017, when she came on as a second half substitute against Russia. She’s been stuck at 98 caps ever since, with most fans assuming that the longer the team went without her, the more final her absence from the WNT. Not so, apparently. With Ellis often turning to her center back pool to fill in at right back, she appears to have gone back to the well to take a second look at Krieger. (Of note: Ellis continues asking Casey Short to join the team, but doesn’t seem willing to play her at her natural position.)

The possibility that Ellis is simply tossing Krieger a couple of ceremonial caps to get her to 100 this close to the World Cup has to be extremely low, which makes it more a question of what Ellis sees lacking from her current fullback options. Most of the time these days that seems to be Crystal Dunn and Kelley O’Hara starting out, with the option to bring in Emily Sonnett or Tierna Davidson and push them wide. With O’Hara out and Short looking like she’s moved back out to the fringe, these are obviously suboptimal solutions when Ellis wants a high-pressing team with experienced fullbacks that can engage and disengage from the attack as needs dictate. At one point Krieger was exactly the fullback Ellis would have wanted for her system, but now at 34 she may be just as pinned down as a center back with her engine not quite able to handle the speed of a full-strength Australia. Did Ellis have a perfectly fine reason for transitioning away from Krieger two years ago, or is this the move she should have made all along? Will Krieger be out just as soon as O’Hara is fit again? We’ll see.

Schedule

USA vs Australia
Thursday, April 4
9 PM ET / 6 PM PT
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colorado
FS1

USA vs Belgium
Sunday, April 7
9 PM ET / 6 PM PT
Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles, California
ESPN2