The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) have kicked off their final weeks of training and play before departing for the Summer Olympics in Japan with three friendly international matches in Houston and Austin, Texas, with the first game taking place on June 10 in Houston against FIFA’s 29th-ranked Portugal. They play Jamaica on Sunday and Nigeria on Wednesday, June 16, as part of the 2021 Summer Series Tournament.
The USWNT will also face Mexico in Hartford, Connecticut, during two “Olympics Send-Off” matches on July 1 and 5.
Last month, head coach Vlatko Andonovski called 23 players into camp, including Rush Colorado alum and Portland Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan, and her Thorns’ teammate, Sofia Smith, a product of Real Colorado’s Youth Soccer Club.
Both are vying to make Andonovski’s final 18-player roster to represent the United States in Japan.
During yesterday’s press conference, Horan described the competitive atmosphere of this final camp before the Olympic Team is announced. “I don’t think it [competition] ever changes. Coming into camps with the women’s national team, it’s always tense, it’s always a lot of pressure, and it’s always uncomfortable,” the veteran Horan said. “I think that is why this national team is so good and that’s why the competition is so high.”
Barring a major injury, Horan is expected to be a shoo-in to make the Olympic Team roster.
For the 20-year-old Sofia Smith, the odds are a bit longer. The attacking phenom is up against the likes of brand-name forwards, including Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and Christen Press. Smith has had only four appearances with the senior Women’s side; however, has earned considerable praise from the coaching staff. It appears that Smith has stepped up and into Mallory Pugh’s shoes.
Pugh was injured for an extended period of time and has not been in any of the recent U.S. camps. She has now fully recovered, though, and has been making impressive appearances with her National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team, Chicago Red Stars.
With six weeks to go before the team heads to Japan, the Burgundy Wave asked Andonovski where Pugh stood in his decision-making process. “I’ve said before, no one is out of the running until we pick the final roster. The players that we chose for the most recent rosters are the ones we’re most focused on at this moment in time.” He added, “But nothing is closed until the Olympic roster is chosen.”
It is expected that the final roster, plus traveling alternates will be named after the conclusion of the tournament in smothering Texas.
Andonovski and staff selected Texas in June in hopes that the camp and matches would coincide with typical early summer weather that might mirror the oppressive heat of Tokyo in July. The Lone Star State has not disappointed Andonovski. The temperatures this week have been in 90s with and relative humidity approaching 85%.
“It [climate] is brutal. It is hot, humid. It is hard. We are going to test a lot of things, obviously, from a tactical standpoint,” Andonovski stated. “We are going to test to see what is the speed that we can move in, what’s the speed of play, how sustainable is the high press and what’s the period of time we can sustain that so a lot of things that we’re gonna test as a team. Hopefully, after these three games, we will have enough time to adjust If we need to adjust something.”
The USWNT is the top-ranked team in the world. They possess a 39-match unbeaten streak, and in games played in 2021, they have out-scored their rivals 22-1.
The Stars and Stripes have won all of the nine match-ups they’ve had against Portugal. They have outscored them 38-0. Last week, Portugal’s manager, Francisco Neto, announced that he also called up 23 players for this tournament. His roster boasts a blend of youth and veteran players. Fifteen players have 19 caps or fewer, while 8 of his players have 50 or more caps. In their most recent tournament competition, Portugal failed to qualify for the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Tournament.
How to Watch
Match Date/Time: June 10, 2021 at 6:30 p.m. MT
Venue: BBVA Stadium — Houston, TX
TV Information: FS1
USWNT Full Summer Series Roster by Position, Club; Caps/Goals
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 5), Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns; 4), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 69)
DEFENDERS (8): Alana Cook (OL Reign, 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 66/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 29/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 111/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 136/2), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 6/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 184/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 51/0)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 93/20), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 53/14), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA; 3/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 22/4), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage; 72/21), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 16/0)
FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 301/124), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 175/109), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 144/60), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 175/59), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 4/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 34/10)