The United States Women’s National Team, idled since the end of the SheBelieves Cup in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, has seen the ability of many of its players to play dwindled due to the postponement of the 2020 NWSL season. When the league decided to reboot by having a one-off tournament, the NWSL Challenge Cup, a few of the players decided to opt out of the tournament, sitting out due to concerns about the health and safety of the players at the tournament or due to nagging injuries that needed rest.
However, with the Olympics now pushed back to next summer and the NWSL unsure on a resumption of the regular season this fall, a few players have decided to head abroad in search of consistent matches to keep their fitness and sharpness. Rose Lavelle and Samantha Mewis signed deals with Manchester City, while Emily Sonnett went on loan to Kopparbergs/Göteborg through the end of November. Tobin Heath and Christen Press have been reportedly considering an offer to join Manchester United for the season as well. As the NWSL attempts to figure out what it will do for the rest of 2020, we may see more USWNT players decide to join Lavelle, Mewis, and Sonnett in Europe.
The Olympics only allows rosters of 18 players, which will make the competition for a place on the plane to Japan fierce over the coming months. USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski will have his work cut out for him as he decides who will make the team and who will remain at home. For those players on the fringe and even for some of the regular starters, the ability to keep match fit will remain paramount in an effort to keep Andonovski’s decision a difficult one.
So, would a brief move abroad help some players? Certainly. The FA WSL (England), the D1 Féminine (France), the Damallsvenskan (Sweden), the Primera División Femenino (Spain), and the Frauen-Bundesliga (Germany) have some excellent teams that make those leagues options for our players. Teams from those leagues routinely are favorites for the Women’s Champions League as well. There’s also the W-League (Australia), which is a favorite destination for several players during the normal NWSL offseason. Combined with domestic cups, there would be plenty of matches for USWNT players to maintain their competitive edge.
So, which players could stand to gain from a move abroad? Here are some possibles, along with fun teams that could improve dramatically with the player(s) in the lineup.
Emily Sonnett, Allie Long - Sydney FC
Emily Sonnett is already at Kopparbergs/Göteborg until the end of the season in November, however if she wants more playing time before the 2021 NWSL season begins, a move to Sydney FC for the 2020-21 season could suit her. The 26-year-old defender is usually in the defensive rotation for the USWNT, but she will want to separate herself from the pack and prove she can handle any offensive player that comes her way. Allie Long will also need some matches to prove that at 33, she’s still a player that should be on the USWNT. Heading to Sydney FC would give them some steady minutes against some decent competition in the W-League.
The Frauen-Bundesliga is a league that has quietly become arguably the best league in Europe. At 22 years old, Mallory Pugh could make a major impact on that title race with Bayern Munich. With the league, the German Cup, and Women’s Champions League, there will be matches for her to play to show that she has the ability to be a dynamic scorer on the wing for the USWNT during the Olympics. To join her to keep match fit would be Abby Dahlkemper, who’s locked into the starter role alongside Becky Sauerbrunn at centerback but could use the matches to stay sharp. Another option for these two in Germany would be Hoffenheim, who score in bunches but would welcome more defensive help to try and supplant Bayern and Wolfsburg at the top of the standings.
Tierna Davidson, Adrianna Franch - Tottenham Hotspur
Tierna Davidson and Adrianna Franch could help Spurs improve defensively. Tottenham finished in the bottom half of the FA WSL last season, and they desperately want to improve to have a shot at getting into Champions League and contend for the league. Davidson is 21 years old and has the experience of the 2019 World Cup to help her, and Franch is a ridiculous shot stopper that can help secure some wins for any club. Having USWNT players at Spurs would no doubt be a welcome sight for the many fans who are looking for their side to show some promise this season.
Tobin Heath, Christen Press - Real Madrid
While Tobin Heath and Christen Press appear to be finalizing a move to Manchester United, one place that would be incredibly interesting for them would be a move to Real Madrid. Real, who just got into the women’s game last year, has already brought in Swedish stars Kosovare Asllani and Sofia Jakobsson to feature on their attack. Add Heath on the wing and Press in the middle or the other wing? Real Madrid is not a team that’s ready to settle for being middle of the table, and now that their crest are on the jersey (after its purchase of CD Tacon), they’re going to load up to go after rivals Barcelona and Atlético Madrid. Heath and Press would be fantastic additions to that.
Morgan Gautrat - Paris Saint-Germain
Morgan Gautrat has spent a season in France, when she had a short, injury-riddled stint with Olympique Lyonnais. Now with a few more years of experience and healthy, a trip back to France would be a bit of a redemption for that phase of her career. A team that would be a nice spot for her would be Paris Saint-Germain, where she would have the chance to compete for a team that will play in the Women’s Champions League semifinal against Lyon on Wednesday. She knows the league and playing well for PSG will keep her in the mix for one of those final spots on the Olympic team.
Which USWNT players do you think will benefit with a move abroad this fall? Which ones do you think are better served by staying home in the United States in the hopes that the NWSL can have some matches this fall? Hit the comments and discuss.