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Colorado’s Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, Sophia Smith, and Jaelin Howell kick off 2021 international play with USWNT

With a 48-game home unbeaten streak on the line, USWNT host Colombia in the first of two friendlies in Orlando, Florida

Soccer: U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Victory Tour-Portugal at USA Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) open their 2021 season on Monday evening in downtown Orlando when they host FIFA 26th-ranked Colombia. It will be the Lady Yank’s first game in the U.S. in 313 days. Team USA last played at home on March 11, 2020, against Japan in Frisco, Texas during the annual SheBelieves Cup Tournament.

The USWNT is 11-0-0 start under the direction of Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski. The affable manager has called up 27 players for the annual January camp, which is also being held in Orlando.

The camp’s roster includes an unprecedented four Coloradoans: veterans Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh, as well as newcomers Jaelin Howell and Sophia Smith.

Horan missed the senior team’s last camp in Breda, Netherlands, due to COVID-19. Florida State University junior and Colorado Real alum, Jaelin Howell was called up to take Horan’s spot. Fellow Real alum and first-year Portland Thorns forward Sophia Smith also joined Howell in Breda.

Both Howell and Smith had a fine camp in October when the U.S. squad gathered in Denver and trained at Dick’s Sporting Good Park. The young duo made U.S. Soccer history in the match against the Netherlands.

In the 75th minute of the game, the 20-year-old Smith was called onto the pitch. She became the first player born in the 2000s to earn a cap with the senior USWNT. Her former high school schoolmate, Howell, 21, then followed Smith to earn her first senior team cap when she entered the match in the 89th minute. The U.S. went on to close out the friendly with a 2-0 win.

Mal Pugh is back on track

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

Earlier this month, Pugh was invited to the Orlando camp after nearly a year of being sidelined with nagging injuries. The healthy Real product is vying to regain her shine and win her roster spot back ahead of the team’s run-up to the Summer Olympics in Japan. Should Pugh demonstrate her wellness at this camp, she is expected to make the forthcoming 2021 SheBelieves Cup Tournament roster.

Horan at 100%

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

During last week’s virtual press conference, Horan, 26, told the media: “COVID time was not a fun time, I’ll say that much. There was probably a week-and-a-half there that was pretty miserable. And obviously, I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through that. I’m very lucky that I’m healthy and I’m young and I came out of it OK.”

The midfielder continued, “Obviously, now I’m doing well and in camp, and I feel 100%. But yeah, just not an experience that I enjoyed whatsoever... and I missed out on getting to play with the team, so that was a bummer. It’s scary just knowing what other people might have to go through that could be a lot worse than me.”

Prior to joining this camp. Horan attempted to regain her wind and legs while training with members of her youth club, Rush Colorado/Rush Pro Development at December camp. Horan mixed it up with dozen-plus college-age Rush players, several of who are considered future MLS Draft prospects.

USA vs Colombia

Tonight, the USWNT will play a friendly against Colombia. The USA is 5-0-1 all-time against Las Cafeteras and their most recent face-off was at the Olympics in 2016.

Andonovski will select 18 players from the 27-member camp roster. He will choose from a formidable group of players.

The head coach announced yesterday that 35-year-old veteran Becky Sauerbrunn would lead the squad moving forward.

“I felt like Becky is the best fit to be captain of the national team but at the same time I had a good conversation with Carli [Lloyd], Pinoe [Megan Rapinoe], and Alex [Morgan] before I made the announcement and they were very supportive of that,” Andonovski stated during a meeting with reporters. ”It’s hard to lead this team as an individual. Leadership is a group role and Becky will need them, I will need them, and this team will need them.”

How to Watch: USWNT vs. Colombia

Match Date/Time: Monday, January 18 at 5 p.m. MT

Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando, Florida

TV Information: FS1

Follow along on Twitter @USWNT or Instagram @USWNT


GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit; 0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 3), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 25), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 64)

DEFENDERS (10): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA; 1/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 62/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 26/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 105/24), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 3/0), Ali Krieger (107/1), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 132/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 2/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 178/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 46/0)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 103/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 86/19), Jaelin Howell (Florida State; 1/0), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 46/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA; 0/0), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 15/1), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 67/18), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 16/0)

FORWARDS (5): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 294/123), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 63/18), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 168/52), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 29/9)