A seasoned U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) closed out its annual January training camp on January 22 with a 6-0 win against a rising Colombia side in the second of two friendly matches. Many of Las Cafeteras’ more experienced and talented players are currently abroad in the professional ranks of Spain’s and Portugal’s women’s league and were not available for this two-match series.
Lindsey Horan comes full circle
Prior to the start of this camp, Horan was recuperating from the coronavirus. She was diagnosed with COVID-19 in November and was last seen regaining her form at a Colorado Rush winter camp for college-age men this past December.
In the first match versus Colombia, Lindsey Horan was a member of the starting XI. The free-spirited midfielder played 63 minutes before being subbed out. Her full recovery was evident throughout the game, as she directly played a role in three of the USWNT four goals, which included winning a penalty kick very early in the second half.
In the second match on Friday, she came off the bench in the second half for Rose Lavelle. At the 73rd-minute mark, the versatile Crystal Dunn, who also subbed in later in the game as a forward, delivered a curving ball from the right corner flag that sailed over the head of Julie Ertz and found a wide-open Horan in the box. Horan lost her mark with a healthy two-handed shove that sent her defender to the stadium turf. Horan then confidently swatted the incoming ball past two Colombian defenders and their keeper.
The Colorado Rush graduate appears to be Summer Olympics ready and her picture-perfect goal was her 20th for the Lady Yanks.
Got 60 seconds?— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) January 23, 2021
Want to rewatch all 6 goals?
Well have we got the video for you! pic.twitter.com/c2OucrtPG4
Updates on Jaelin Howell, Sophia Smith, and Mallory Pugh
The camp afforded head coach Vlatko Andonovski and his staff the opportunity to again evaluate Coloradoans Jaelin Howell and Sophie Smith, as well as Mallory Pugh. The latter, only briefly as Pugh was in camp for just two days before she suffered a recurring injury. She has been rehabilitating since.
Smith made it through most of the camp; however, sustained an injury before the game one on January 18. Howell trained but did not make either of the matchday rosters due to a coach’s decision.
Andonovski gained quite a bit of insight into his squad’s offense and defense, despite the heavy-handed wins.
“We can evaluate the defense when we’re in possession of the ball. How much are they helping in the build up, are they able to find our six, are they able to find our tens, penetrating passes, advancing forward. There’s so many things,” he explained. “Working from the October camp [at Denver’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park] on, we started tweaking the way that we’re defending a little bit. It seems like we’re moving in the right direction. The stats show that we’re moving in the right direction. I still feel like there are things we can get better at. But on the other side, I feel like we’re able to create more opportunities.”
SheBelieves Cup version 6.0
The USWNT returns to Orlando’s Exploria Stadium next month for the 6th edition of the SheBelieves tournament. The now-annual, and often sold-out tourney, aims to inspire and empower women and girls to achieve their goals in sport and beyond. The games are scheduled to be played from February 18-24.
The USA has upgraded its three opponents to include Japan, Brazil, and Canada—three elite teams ranked in FIFA’s top 10 and who have also qualified for the Summer Olympics. The U.S. earned its berth after winning the Concacaf regional Olympic Qualifiers.
Fans of Horan, Howell, Smith, and Pugh can expect that the foursome—if healthy—will be invited in a pre-tournament camp for the opportunity to fight their way onto Andonovski’s 18-player game day roster.
The even more pressing question is: Will the Summer Games in Japan even be held? The COVID-19 pandemic does not appear to be backing down and rumors this past week appear to indicate the host nation may be at the verge of throwing in the towel or at least compromising and holding the games without spectators.
IOC statement on media reports regarding Tokyo 2020 pic.twitter.com/647pj5mx9U— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) January 22, 2021
When asked how she would feel if the Summer Games were outright canceled, veteran Megan Rapinoe stated: “That would be awful. Personally, I’d be devastated. A lot of my teammates would be devastated to miss out fully on a major championship because I don’t think it would be postponed again.”