U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis has named her 23-player squad for the 2017 SheBelieves Cup that will echo the tournament played in Florida and Nashville last year, featuring four of the world’s top teams in the USA, Germany, France and England, playing in three doubleheader events at three different venues over a seven-day period.
The USWNT won the inaugural SheBelieves Cup in 2016 (isiphotos.com)
“We’ve now had two camps together this year and I’ve seen some good things across the board,” explained Ellis. “Now we’re looking to translate that into three games against fantastic opponents. We will be greatly tested and these are the moments where you learn the most about yourself which is exactly what we need right now.”
In a Q&A with USSoccer.com she also talked about squad selection following their Orlando camp, including Pugh and Pinto (the two amateurs in the squad) and also about Dunn (Chelsea) and Morgan (OL), joining the squad a little later, from Europe:
ussoccer.com: How has training camp progressed in Orlando and what were the major factors in picking these 23 players?
Jill Ellis: The week of preparation has been very good. Getting to play a match against an outside opponent, against boys, was very valuable because we haven’t had a full game going into SheBelieves. In that game we got a lot of answers and saw a lot of good things. In looking at how we should approach a roster, it’s first and foremost, which players we feel can help us be successful to win games, and then making sure we have cover and depth.
I think the difference this year from perhaps the preceding years is that we’re not using this environment as a place where a player can just come in and work their way back into form and fitness. It’s now about them having to be ready to deliver at least 75 minutes in a SheBelieves game. It’s not ideal to take a player who is not yet “played in” and can potentially only give you 15-20 minutes. When you’re building for a world event you will invest in a player who you think will make the final roster, even if they are working their way back in, because you want them to hear the information, stay connected and sense that they are going to be a part of that team for a world event. In this phase we’re in, it’s about taking players who are ready or needing to gain experience. The reality is if a player is not ready right now, we have a big window in which to continue their evaluation and assessment. And of course the NWSL will play a big role in that.
ussoccer.com: This is the first time Mallory Pugh is back in the squad since the Olympics after playing with the U-20s and recovering from an injury, what did you see from her this week?
JE: Mal went through the U-20 World Cup at the end of last year and then for sure needed some down time, and to let her knee heal a little bit. But she’s been back training, working out at college, and she’s been in a training environment so she’s come in and she’s shown well. She looks good and fit and I think she’s going to be an important piece in our roster in SheBelieves.
ussoccer.com: You chose 16-year-old Brianna Pinto – who played in last year’s U-17 Women’s World Cup – for the roster. What did you see from her over January Camp and the Orlando camp that earned her a spot?
JE: I think with Brianna, part of it is that you have to make sure that a player can help immediately, but also ask yourself, what do you see potentially in this player? And what I see in her is someone that already from a January Camp until now is getting more comfortable, is answering questions in meetings and asking questions on the field. She’s someone that is fully engaged, and in the match against the boys, she showed she is a player who wants the ball, and those are some special qualities. Giving her the exposure and experience of being in SheBelieves, which is a big tournament, is a massive investment. Couple that with the fact that with Andi Sullivan getting injured (last fall during the college season), we have less availability in pure 6s. My commitment is to look at Allie (Long) in the role we’ve been playing her in, so what Brianna gives us is more cover in that central midfielder position.
ussoccer.com: Crystal Dunn and Alex Morgan are joining the team late from Europe, does that have any impact in camp?
JE: In my tenure, I haven’t dealt with international players joining us purely at FIFA windows so it’s a slightly different experience for me personally but obviously we’ve kept in contact with them, both visually in terms of watching their games, and obviously through constant communication. We’re excited to have them join us in camp and ready for them to help us be successful.
U.S. Women’s National Team 2017 SheBelieves Cup Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
DEFENDERS (6): Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), Carli Lloyd (Manchester City), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Brianna Pinto (CASL)
FORWARDS (6): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea Ladies FC), Jessica McDonald (NC Courage), Alex Morgan (Olympique Lyonnais), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (UCLA), Lynn Williams (NC Courage)