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Colorado’s Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, Sophia Smith and Jaelin Howell wrap up USWNT camp

Horan signs with Ligue 2 Olympique Lyonnais and will join Pugh and Smith at mid- February SheBelieves Cup tourney 

Paraguay v USWNT Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

‘Tis still the season for Colorado soccer fans! What should become a routine announcement from here on out, four products of Colorado youth soccer programs, Lindsey Horan, Jaelin Howell, Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith, keep popping up at U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) events. And once again, their respective clubs, Colorado Rush and Real Colorado, are beaming with pride.

The four that someday could make up the center diamond of the USWNT recently wrapped up an up-tempo training camp in Austin, Texas. USWMT head coach Vlatko Andonovski used the 10-day event to evaluate rising talent from within the rank and file of the entire USWNT program.

Name-brand players Tobin Health, Christen Press, Alex Morgan, Meg Rapinoe and Alex Morgan were not on the Austin camp’s invitation list. Neither were Crystal Dunn, Julie Ertz, and team captain- Becky Sauerbrunn.

Dunn is expecting to deliver her first child in May. Ertz is still on the mend from an early 2021 MCL injury sustained during National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) play. The 36-year old Sauerbrunn is recuperating from a procedure to freeze her embryos.

As a result, Andovovski and his staff brought in several young players. Fifteen of the invitees had 12 or fewer appearances with the senior team, including Howell.

Howell, a Real Colorado alum, joined the likes of up-and-coming striker Trinity Rodman, center-back Naomi Girma, and goaltender Aubrey Renee Kingsbury. The 19-year old Rodman just inked a record establishing $1.1 million contract with her National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) side, Washington Spirit. She was a late addition to the USWNT roster.

The next 12 months are essential for the senior women’s program, as the FIFA No. 1 ranked team aims to qualify for both the 2023 Women’s World Cup tournament and the 2024 Paris-based Olympics.

Nine cities in Australia and New Zealand will play host to the 32-team Women’s World Cup tourney from July 20 to Aug. 20, 2023.

“We had a great camp [in Austin], and now we need to see this group of players in-game environments against highly-motivated opponents,” Andonovski stated after the Texas camp closed. “Every player in the pool is focused on making the roster for World Cup and Olympic qualifying this summer, and every training session and especially every match is a means to that end for them and for the coaching staff. The SheBelieves Cup is also a great opportunity to help prepare for the rhythm of group play at the Concacaf W Championship as we have to face three different opponents and different styles of play over a short period of time.”

Horan, Pugh and Smith will move on to the upcoming Cup tournament that will be played in Carson, California, and Frisco, Texas, this month. The Lady Yanks will face Czechia, New Zealand and Iceland.

And again, big billing names Health, Press, Rapinoe Morgan will not play in the tournament.

“All these players are very good players. We know that they’ve done so much for this team,” Andonovski told ESPN of the veterans during yesterday’s press conference. “But right now, I want to give a chance to players like Sophia Smith and Mal Pugh and Catarina Macario, players that have earned their spot on the national team or earn their spot back.

“I want to give them maximum minutes or whatever minimum they earn so we can evaluate every aspect of their game, in the training environment or game setting.”

Veteran midfielder Julie Ertz was left off of the invitation list in favor of more youthful players.

Howell

Regrettably, for Colorado natives, high flying defensive midfielder Jaelin Howell did not make the cut after her successful trials in camp. During his meeting conversations with the media, Andovoski commented: “As of right now, we felt that there are other players we want to take a closer look at in-game environments.”

USWNT Training Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Howell is celebrating her second Herman Trophy award. The prestigious prize is delivered to the top NCAA D1 soccer player by the Missouri Athletic Club. The Windsor native also scored the 2021 Honda Sport Award. For the past 46 years, the award is presented to the top women athletes presenting 12 NCAA sports by the Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) organization.

Adding to her accolades, the Fossil Ridge High School graduate was the second overall pick out of Florida State University in the 2022 NWSL College Draft. The scrappy 5-foot-8 midfielder will be joining Racing Louisville City Football Club this spring. She signed a three-year deal soon after the draft.

She made her debut with Team USA this past November and played again in last year’s SheBelieves Cup. Howell is expected to be in the competitive mix to make the senior team’s roster in the near future.

Howell comes from an exceptional athletics pedigree. Her father, John, was a stellar collegiate footballer at Colorado State University. Today he sports an NFL Super Bowl ring that he earned when he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Her mother, Laura, was a three-sport high school standout in her youth in South Dakota. Her younger brothers are following her lead. Jack is starting safety for the CSU Rams football team, and Jake helped lead his Cherry Creek High School football side to the 2021 Colorado High School School Association title.

Smith

The advancing Smith and Howell have a long history as teammates, dating back to some of their earliest moments playing the sport. In kindergarten, the future soccer stars played together for the Timnath Twisters, their elementary soccer team based near Fort Collins. They later played club soccer for Real Colorado before going their separate ways for college.

In November of 2020, Smith earned her first cap for the USWNT as a substitute verse the Netherlands. To date, she has delivered three assists and one pretty goal:

The 21-year old Smith appears to be brimming with confidence and has certainly caught Andonovski’s eye. Before the match with Paraguay, Smith shed light on her attitude and approach to the game.

“Yeah, and I think just playing confident and playing free and not overthinking everything is key for me,” Smith continued. “It’s a big stage, it’s the biggest stage that I can play on, and I think with that comes a lot of pressure, but to kind of use that pressure and be excited about it and control what I can control…it’s always an honor to get minutes with this team and to represent this country. So to embrace that and to always remember to have fun because that’s, you know, that’s the most important thing.”

For her NWSL team, the Portland Thorns, she has played in 22 games and made 17 starts. Smith has fired off 78 shots, 38 of which have been on target, and has scored seven goals during her short tenure. Smith was drafted out of Stanford University in 2020. She was the NWSL’s first selection.

Pugh

Mallory Pugh returns to the mix after passing on joining the USWNT’s junket to Australia in December. In November, Pugh missed her NWSL Chicago Red Stars semifinal match because she was required to enter a 10-day Covid-19 isolation period. She cleared the window and returned to join her team and play in the NWSL championship game against none other than Portland’s Lindsey Horan and Sophia Smith.

Pugh had a banner season with the Red Stars. She was rewarded with her first career NWSL playoff appearance. Her polished skills on the ball and knack for extending defensive lines was been a big factor for Chicago’s late-season success. She made a career-high 23 starts and scored four goals, plus offered up four assists. During the NWSL playoffs, Pugh scored the game-winner goal in Chicago’s match with Gotham FC.

Pugh has an immense upside. Many pundits believe she will have a breakout year if she is healthy throughout. The Real Soccer alumni is expected to be a fixture in the Stars and Stripes attacking line-up during the SheBelieves Cup matches.

Horan

Simply said, Lindsey Horan is at the top of her game. The Rush Colorado product just keeps breaking her glass ceiling. Last year she was named U.S. Soccer’s Female Player of the Year. She earned her 100 cap for the United States was rewarded by USWNT’s standout, Carli Lloyd, with her No. 10 kit. Horan wore the Yanks captain’s armband twice and won the NWSL Championship.

The latter is in addition to Horan winning two NWSL Shields and an NWSL Challenge Cup all in just six seasons with the Portland Thorns. In 2018 she was named NWSL MVP.

During her 108 appearances for the USWNT, she has bagged 25 goals and passed on a remarkable 34 assists.

While participating in the Texas training camp, news broke that Horan was prematurely leaving the gathering and heading to France.

The Thorns’ front office announced that a transaction was consummated with the French Olympique Lyonnais Soccer Club and that Horan was part of an 18-month loan deal that will conclude in June 2023.

Andonovski summed up his vision for the meteoric Horan and her role on his team:

“Now, the next chapter for Lindsey in our environment or in the national team is going to be to take on a little bit bigger role as a leader on and off the field,” he said. “She’s an incredible player. She’s a total footballer who knows the game. Very versatile. But it’s time for her to just stop, take it to the next level, and be able to control games, and also be a leader.”

With the help of her sports psychologist, personal grit, determination, and a string of successes, Horan has all that it takes to rise to the next echelon as a player-commodore with the Yanks. And ten is indeed the most suitable number the great Horan. She will wear it with a mountain of can-do, self-confidence that she has steadily accrued during her impressive career.

Before Horan starts cooking in Lyon, expect to see plenty from the leader on the pitch, both in Carson and Frisco. And plan to hear plenty from the Burgundy Wave as well. Let the new season begin.

U.S. Women’s National Team 2022 SheBelieves Cup Roster by Position (Club; Caps/Goals):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit; 0), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 2), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 78)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 4/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 45/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 8/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 9/0), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 148/2), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 63/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 199/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Gautrat (Chicago Red Stars; 87/8), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA; 108/25), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 68/18), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA; 12/3), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 33/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 22/2)

FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 4/2), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 67/18), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 9/2), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit; 0/0), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current; 45/14)