Yesterday, U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski announced the 23 players representing the United States in the upcoming 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. This announcement was made a month before the USWNT’s opening match.
Andonovski expressed his intention to blend youth and experience after the 2020 Olympics, and this approach proved successful during the team’s participation in the CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico. A perfect example is when he used both Becky Sauerbrunn, who has over 200 caps, and rising star Naomi Girma, playing together for the first time.
Everyone was not a fan of Andonovski’s attempt to use young players instead of proven veterans, and it raised concerns. The team’s performance during the European trip highlighted the drawbacks of not having experienced players on the field. Injuries have affected the team’s talent pool, so Andonovski must balance veteran leadership and up-and-coming young players.
Megan Rapinoe, Kelly O’Hara, and Alex Morgan are the OGs of the group, playing in their fourth World Cup. Rapinoe turns 38 when the World Cup starts, but her presence is more important than any form she could be in. And the same goes for O’Hara and Morgan.
The other players with veteran leadership are Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Crystal Dunn, and Alyssa Naeher. Outside of the veteran leadership, there are 12 players with less than 50 caps, most of which are making their first World Cup appearance.
Now that we know the roster, here’s what questions remain for the USWNT.
Can Alex Morgan handle being the sole striker?
Without Catarina Macario, it leaves the no. 9 position solely to Morgan. And that is a good problem, but what if the world’s best striker gets injured?
Who does Andnovski turn to?
Sophia Smith is the most obvious choice as the backup center forward. Smith led the team in scoring during the 2022 International window and signaled the alarm that she is a generational talent. She is needed somewhere else on the pitch.
Lynn Williams is also another safe choice. Williams has the second most caps behind Morgan and 15 goals.
At some point, it would be great to see young stars Alyssa Thompson and Trinity Rodman get a chance to play, but it will likely come during group play. With Morgan in excellent form, we likely won’t see anyone else in the striker spot unless an injury occurs.
Who will be the leader on defense?
The absence of Becky Sauerbraunn on the USWNT backline is deeply felt. She served as the team captain and effectively communicated defensive assignments to all players on the field. Andonovski has expressed his dependence on Sauerbraunn, who acted as an on-field coach.
The defense isn’t left without leadership. Kelley O’Hara and Crystal Dunn each have World Cup experience and a combined 288 caps. And behind them is a passionate Emily Sonnett, who has no problem being vocal on the field.
The X-factor is Naomi Girma. Girma has the support of everyone on the team, which means she has their ear. Expectations are high for Girma; this is the situation where young stars take the next leap.
Will the midfielders carry the team to the title?
The best overall group on the team is the midfielders. Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, and the return of Julie Ertz make this the best midfield in the World Cup.
The three women have essential roles in different ways. Horan is an excellent midfielder, Lavelle is a talented creator, and Ertz is a versatile player who has been absent from the USWNT for a year. Andonovski can rely heavily on these players and additional reliable backups like Andi Sullivan, Ashley Sanchez, and Kristie Mewis.
The x-factor of the group is Sanchez. She had a great run in the CONCACAF W Championship and played with an incredible pace. She has been overlooked but adds value to the offensive attack, which will be needed with a limited number of experienced strikers.
Is this team ready for Europe?
Last fall, the USWNT went on a European tour after the CONCACAF W Championship. The tour exposed some weaknesses in the team, particularly in their midfield defense. England and Spain demonstrated that the youth movement experiment led by Andonovski required further improvement before the World Cup, especially in terms of players who could make plays in the final third.
Adding Ertz answers the defensive question at midfield, but losing Sauerbraunn brings a different stress. The European champs, England, are going through their troubles dealing with the injury bug, but Spain and Germany look strong.
The European squads will be the most formidable challenge for the USWNT during the World Cup. European teams make up the majority of the top ten in the FIFA world rankings, with the USA sitting at the top.
This roster epitomizes Andonovski’s vision of young and seasoned, but will it be enough to achieve the three-peat? We get to find out in a month’s time.