With a coaching staff turkey trot and team Thanksgiving buffet still to check-off his to-do list, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) head coach Vlatko Andonovski has just about concluded his second training camp in a matter of two months. This ‘game-camp’ is being held in Breda, Holland, ahead of a friendly against FIFA’s 4th-ranked Royal Dutch Football Federation women’s side on November 27 in Breda’s 19,000-seat Rat Verlegh Stadion. The match will be played without fans in the soccer stadium.
The USA and Netherlands last met on July 7, 2019, during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final in Lyons, France. The USA won 2-nil, and collectively hoisted its fourth World Cup silverware.
The camp and match is another important step in preparing the U.S. team for the 2021 Summer Olympics Games in Japan.
In a statement to the media, Andonovski stated, “The environment in which we are preparing for this Olympic Games has been and will continue to be unlike anything this team has ever experienced, so to expand the number of players who can contribute in world championship tournament becomes even more important.” The game will put the Lady Yanks into action for the first time in 261 days, one of the longest periods that the team has gone without facing-off in an international match.
That understood, Andonovski set expectations for U.S. fans: “We are nowhere close to our best, not from tactical perspective, not physically preparation, not even our technical and mental preparation.” He continued, “some payers have not touched a ball for months. Only a few of our players are 90 minutes ready. We knew when coming into this camp that we would have to take a step back before we can take two steps forward because of the big gap between the games.”
Last week, Andonovski announced his 23-player training camp roster. From the 23 invitees, Andonovski and his staff will select 18 players for matchday play. “It’s a fine line and that’s why we’re trying to keep a majority of the roster intact and the players that we’re rotating or the players that are coming in and out is a small group. If you look at the players that are in, I would say about 70% will be the same,” Andonovski said of his invitation list to this camp and game.
The Colorado connection
Originally, the roster included two Coloradoans: USWNT veteran and Colorado Rush alum Lindsey Horan and her Portland Thorns/Real Colorado Soccer Club teammate, Sophia Smith. Soon after he made the announcement, Horan was forced to withdraw because she tested positive for COVID-19. Andonovski then named Real Soccer Club star and midfielder Jaelin Howell as her replacement.
According to U.S. Soccer, Horan is currently resting at home, doing well, and observing the appropriate quarantine protocols.
Disappointed I won’t be able to join my teammates in the Netherlands but I’m home resting and feeling okay... Best of luck to the team this week, I will miss you guys and be cheering from a far❤️ https://t.co/D3EdCubdPc— Lindsey Horan (@LindseyHoran) November 18, 2020
When asked by the Burgundy Wave why Howell was selected over other available midfielders, Andonovski replied, “Jae has been tremendous this year.”
The head coach and his staff have been monitoring her play with Florida State University and said that “when she came into camp in October she did an incredible job. She fit in very well. She really picked up on from the game model and game idea very quick... which his very positive and allowed her to be selected [as Lindsey’s replacement].”
He added that when they looked at players to replace Horan, Howell was the “highest pick” in terms of fitness, mental preparation, and game shape.
Howell is uncapped with the senior side, but has played 29 games for the U-20s and has scored two goals.
Howell’s to-be camp teammate Sophia Smith has scored 23 goals in 30 matches for the U-20s and is also hoping to earn her first cap with the senior squad. According to U.S. Soccer, should Smith play against the Netherlands, she will become the first player to appear for the U.S. who was born after the historic 1999 FIFA World Cup and the first-ever player born in 2000 to earn a senior team cap.
During a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Andonvoski said that Smith has done an “incredible job at camp.” He added, “She does so much to learn, not just from the coaches, but the from players. She has been open to any constructive criticism from the players. She spends a lot of with players in her position with more experience, and absorbs all the knowledge that she can. I am looking forward to seeing her on the field, if the game allows us.”
Update on Mallory Pugh
During an earlier media call, Andonovski was asked about the status of Real Colorado alum and NWSL New Jersey Blue winger, Mallory Pugh. The optimistic head coach said, “Mal has a little bit of an injury and she’s still recovering. She’s not 100 percent back from her injury [sustained during NWSL play] but she’s on track to be back probably in 2-3 weeks which is very exciting.” Pugh also missed the recent 10-day camp that was held at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado.
The next USWNT camp is tentatively scheduled for January 2021, but dates and a location have not been announced. The 2021 She Believes Cup Tournament was slated to start on February 8th and Andonovski said that until U.S. Soccer tells them otherwise, they will prepare for their upcoming friendlies, the next camp, and the She Believes Cup.
The first of those hopeful 10 matches with the best kicks off this Friday. The game will be broadcasted at 10:35 a.m. MT on ESPN2 & TUDN.
USWNT/Netherlands Training Game-Camp Roster (Affiliation; Caps and Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit; 0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 3), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 63)
DEFENDERS (8): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA; 1/0), Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 61/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 26/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 104/24), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals FC; 131/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 1/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 177/0), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride; 45/0)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 102/20), Jaelin Howell (Florida State; 0/0), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 45/12), Catarina Macario (Stanford; 0/0), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 15/1), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 67/18)
FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Tobin Heath (Manchester United, ENG; 168/33), Alex Morgan (Tottenham Hotspur, ENG; 169/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 138/58), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 28/9)