On Friday, Vlatko Andonovski, Head Coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT), paired down his 39-player provisional roster to the 20 women who will participate in the Olympic Qualifiers. Lindsey Horan, 2019 Women’s World Cup medalist and local Colorado Rush product, made the team. For Horan making the roster and playing in the upcoming Summer Games is one more accomplishment in her storied career.
Her World Cup teammate and fellow Coloradoan, Mallory Pugh did not. By all reports, Pugh was out-muscled and out-played during the camp. Forward Lynn Williams of the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage—who was not on the recent World Cup team—displaced Pugh.
Up-and-coming defender and Fort Collins Fossil Ridge High School/REAL Colorado product Sophia Smith was also cut from the roster after the Tampa-based camp concluded on the 15th. Smith, who was the first overall pick in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) 2020 Draft last week, was considered a hopeful to make the U.S. roster.
During a conference call with media representatives on Friday, Andonovski stated: “Making this roster was highly competitive. The players came in ready physically and mentally to compete for every roster spot, and at the end, the ones that I believe will give us a chance to be successful and will give us the best chance to qualify for the Olympics are the ones that made the roster.”
When pressed about Pugh, he said: ”It was competitive and she did well, but there were other players that I believed performed better than Mal... Now, by saying that, I want to be clear that she is a very good, very talented player. She performed well. She has a big future in front of her. I’m pretty sure that if she keeps on developing going forward, she will be on this roster.”
Pugh’s setback is viewed as temporary, and her continued development is paramount for U.S. Soccer. To that end, Andonovski has invited her to train with the team during the qualifiers.
“To be on the roster she needs to be more consistent in the day-to-day, which is extremely hard,” Andonovski added. “In fact, just because of her potential and how good she can be, I invited Mal to come and train with us even though she’s not on the roster because the coaching staff, we want to be able to be there for her. We want to provide the best opportunity for her to develop.”
Andonovski also cut midfielders Allie Long and defender Tierna Davidson, who also played in the World Cup Tournament in France last summer. Alex Morgan, who is pregnant with her first child, will miss the qualifiers but is expected to come back in time to make her third Olympic team.
The new head coach’s first competitive roster features three goalkeepers, six forwards, five midfielders and six defensive backs.
Team USA is attempting to qualify for a seventh consecutive Olympic berth. The Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament opens on January 28 in Houston, Texas and the USA will first face Haiti, then Panama on January 31. They will wrap-up “Group A” play with a showdown vs. the always-feisty Costa Rica on February 5th.
The knockout semifinal matches will be played at Dignity Health Sports Park (home to the LA Galaxy) in Carson, California, on February 7th. The championship game is scheduled for February 9th and the top two teams qualify to compete in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
Burgundy Wave will on-site to cover both the semifinal and final matches.