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The stars aligning for USWNT’s Coloradans ahead of SheBelieves Cup

With the 2023 SheBelieves Cup round-robin contest commencing this week, an unprecedented five Coloradans could make USWNT senior side this summer.

Soccer: International Friendly US WNT Soccer-USA at New Zealand
Jan 18, 2023; Wellington, NZL; United States women’s soccer midfielder Lindsey Horan (10) dribbles the ball against New Zealand’s Betsy Hassett (12) during the international friendly between New Zealand and USA held at Sky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Phibbs
Brett Phibbs-USA TODAY Sports

Coloradans who faithfully follow the United States Women’s Nation Soccer Team (USWNT) could see five players with roots and ties to the Centennial State participate in this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Tournament Down-Under.

Ultimately, who makes the travel manifest will be determined by the team’s head coach Vlatko Andonovski.

With just six months and a week before the Lady Yanks kick-off their first game against Vietnam in Eden Park, Auckland, Andonovski is still perfecting his recipe for success. Like in Chef de Cuisine patiently preparing a first-of-its-kind risotto at an all-start Michelin restaurant in his home city Skopje, Macedonia, he is taking his time making selections of leading ingredients for his acclaimed team.

Today, his go-to first choices would include Lindsey Horan, Sophia Smith and Mallory (Pugh) Swanson, with runner-up additions including Taylor Kornieck and Jaelin Howell. Both are on Andonovski’s top shelf and ready to be put into play.

Lindsey Horan is very likely to make the World Cup team. The 28-year old played for Rush Colorado Soccer Club in her youth has 123 international caps with the Yanks. Both her field general mindset and gritty, box-to-box play assure her a first-class seat to New Zealand. And she has racking up big minutes and a mountain of respect with her home team- OL Feminin in Lyonne, France, who are in the quarter finals of the UEFA Women’s Champion’s League.

On again-off again Mallory Swanson is as hot as a stove-top frying pan. Her recently play in New Zealand for the U.S, and end of North American Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season was nothing short of stellar.

During the Yanks’ friendlies in New Zealand last month, she scored three times and was a darting threat throughout the games.

To date, the fleet-footed Real Colorado Soccer Club product has scored 28 goals and 27 assists in 84 appearances for Team USA. In 2022, she appeared in 15 matches. Swanson started in 13 and ran up over 1,000 minutes on the pitch. These impressive statistics followed a dismal 2020-21 season where she played just five times.

According to her most recent USWNT match-day notes, Swanson has played in a combined 37 games in 2022 for the NWSL Chicago Red Stars Soccer Club and the United States. The 5’4” winger delivered either a goal or assist in 19 matches. By the time the year closed out, Swanson combined 22 goals plus 13 assists in 37 appearances.

The newlywed was also a finalist for the 2022 NWSL MVP for the second consecutive season and made Best XI.

Barring an epic setback, Swanson will be heading to Auckland, and so, seated next to her best friend, Lindsey Horan.

Next up is the unstoppable forward- Sophia Smith. The 2022 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year led the national team with 11 goals. The 22-year-old Smith is the youngest player to win the award since Mia Hamm won it in 1994.

Smith is will not appear this the three-game SheBelieves Cup Tournament that starts this Wednesday in Orlando, when the U.S. face off with Canada. She is carefully recovering from a foot injury that has pestered since late last year.

During a recent press conference, Andonovski spoke up and stated, “Soph actually is looking good. She’s back on the field running, and I think that if we rushed it a little bit, we could have got some minutes from her. But I didn’t feel like this was a situation where we rushed to get it back. Our goal is not just to get her back, but to stay back, and that’s why she’s not in this camp.”

Smith finished second on the team with 1,192 minutes played last year. She became the youngest player since 2000 to score a hat trick when she had her first career three-goal match against Uzbekistan on April 9, 2022.

The rising star lead the Yanks in scoring in 2022 scoring and became the youngest MVP in the history of the NWSL Just as impressive, she was voted the 2022 U.S. Soccer Female Player of Year on last month.

That leaves midfielder’s Jaelin Howell and Taylor Kornieck, who are under evaluation by said Chef Andonovski. The Colorado Buffalo Kornieck looks like she will make the World Cup roster, while the Fossil Ridge High School alumni Howell, is fighting hard to make another positive impression on Andonoski and the coaching staff.

The last time Howell played for the Andonovski was in the spring of 2022. The rough and tumble defensive midfielder started her youth career with Real Colorado, then moved up Florida State University. She captained the Seminole and led them to two NCAA D1 titles, Howell was selected second overall in the 2022 NWSL Draft by Racing Louisville FC.

When asked about her status to possibly make a future camp, if not the U.S. team again, Andonovski explained, “Jaelin and I had a really good conversation before we sent out the invites, and the conversation pretty much was that Jaelin is certainly not out of the picture.”

He elaborated “she does have something that, or she is good at something that probably not another No. 6 in the league is now with Julie Ertz absent, so we want to see that from her in the league. We want to see it on a consistent basis. And that’s what is going to get her back on the team. We’re excited about Jae, she’s not someone that we have given up on just because she’s not on the roster.”

He concluded saying “we are in constant communication with her and analyzing everything that she’s doing.”

The veteran holding midfield Ertz has not been with the team for some considerable time, specifically, since 2021.

Last summer she became a first-time mother. She is also recovering from a right knee MCL sprain that occurred during a collision during NWSL game.

Last week Andonovski reminded member s of the media that time is running out for Ertz. He added that 30-year old’s chances are narrowing, “she’s someone that we’re probably not gonna be able to count on in the World Cup.”

That said, Ertz’s reality leaves the doorway a bit open for Howell to make a re-entry.

Who may be the most fortunate of the five Colorado candidates is Taylor Kornieck. The rookie only arrived last June when she was invited to her very first camp, then earned her first cap and scored her first goal as a bonified member of Team USA, all in the confines of metro Denver’s DICK’s Sporting Good Park.

As the tallest ever USWNT player, the 6’ 1” midfielder quickly caught Andonovski’s eye. She could be hand-picked to join Horan, Swanson and Smith before they all depart for New Zealand in July.

Kornieck made the camp roster again last month when the Yanks played The Ferns during two friendlies. The trip afforded the team to also familiarize themselves with some of the venues that they will be playing in this summer.

With Ertz out and Howell not with the team, Andonovski has been experimenting with Kornieck throughout the midfield. The NWSL San Diego Wave FC member is a capable attacker and is tall target on set pieces. Fellow Wave Alex Morgan raves about her.

In New Zealand, Andonovski tested her out rather deep in the midfield, a position that she is not overly familiar with. It is fair to say the experiment was a partial success. She was partnered with Horan, and the duo played average together. Still, it was not a poor start for the two given that it was a first of probably many opportunities to team-up, practice and play together.

If I was a betting man, I would put money down on the table and say that Kornieck will be added to Andonovski’s winning recipe, and earn prized invitation to join his 23-player World Cup roster.

Kornieck, Swanson and Smith all figure to see plenty of playing time during the SheBelieves Cup. They, along with their teammates, will open against FIFA’s 6th ranked Canada in Orlando’s Exploria Stadium in Orlando this Wednesday. The tournament resumes on Sunday, February 19 in Nashville’s GEODIS Park. Here the U.S will host 11th ranked Japan. The finale will take place on Wednesday, February 22 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, with the USA going up against a strong Brazil side. They sit in 9th place in the FIFA Women’s table.



Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current; 10), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 12), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 87)


Alana Cook (OL Reign; 21/0), Emily Fox (North Carolina Courage; 24/0), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 128/24), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC; 12/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 27/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 212/0), Emily Sonnett (OL Reign; 70/1)


Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 123/26), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC; 9/2), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 86/24), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 47/7), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 19/3), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 39/3)


Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 15/5), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC; 201/120), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 22/4), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 197/63), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit; 12/2), Mallory Swanson (Chicago Red Stars; 84/28), Lynn Williams (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 49/15)