U.S. Women's National Team
Jill Ellis Selects 23 to Play in 2015 Women's World Cup
April 14, 2015
WITH FEW SURPRISES, United States women’s national team head coach Jill Ellis named her World Cup roster on Tuesday afternoon.
The 23-player roster includes 15 members with World Cup experience, topped by veteran Christie Rampone, who will be playing in her fifth World Cup. The roster also includes Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach, who are both set to compete in their fourth tournaments.
Here’s the roster and a breakdown of Ellis’ choices.
GOALKEEPERS: Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS: Lori Chalupny (Chicago Red Stars), Whitney Engen (Western NY Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Houston Dash), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS: Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lauren Holiday (FC Kansas City), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
FORWARDS: Sydney Leroux (Western NY Flash), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Abby Wambach (unattached)
Of the 25 players who had been called into the U.S.’s two most recent camps, Ellis cut Rachel Van Hollebeke and Crystal Dunn.
Van Hollebeke started for the U.S. at the 2011 World Cup and 2012 Olympics and became affectionately known by fans as “Beuhldozer." However, with the emergence of Becky Sauerbrunn, Whitney Engen, and most recently Julie Johnston, the choice of dropping Van Hollebeke—who would have been the fifth center back on the roster—was not a big surprise. Van Hollebeke also missed the World Cup qualifying roster this fall and instead spent that time playing on loan in Japan.
Dunn, who first emerged on the international scene with the U.S. U-20s when that team won the World Cup in 2012, was also cut. Dunn had seen decreasing playing time for the U.S. in recent months and, especially with the reemergence of Lori Chalupny, fell to fifth on the U.S. depth chart at outside back. Surprisingly enough, Dunn made the initial 20-player World Cup qualifying roster this fall before withdrawing due to an injury.
Speaking to reporters via a conference call on Tuesday, Ellis spoke about both athletes.
“Both of them were incredibly professional. They understood the process, they understood how competitive it was. They were class acts, both of them. It was an extremely tough decision because they both offer different things for their positions. They were great and it was obviously a tough call.”
Speaking about Dunn, Ellis said: “(Crystal) has done very well. With Lori (Chalupny) coming in and Kelley’s O’Hara’s flexibility, we’ve got a good complement of outside backs. I even looked at Crystal in a position higher up the field. At the end of the day, it was just a preference of what I needed and what I wanted. Crystal gave her very best.”
With the roster now official, several questions remain—especially on the back line.
Over the past few months, left back has remained a concern for the U.S. and Ellis has rotated a number of players at the position, most notably Meghan Klingenberg and Lori Chalupny.
Ellis discussed the re-emergence of Chalupny, who returned to the national team picture in December after a five-year international hiatus.
“Lori was behind, physically, because the other players had been training and gone through qualifying," Ellis said. "The biggest issue for me was, 'Can she play at the speed of the game?' We watched her in training and down in Brazil and felt comfortable with her ascension—she was getting better every single camp.
"The last camp we had with her was her best to date in terms of keeping possession and speed of play. I know her quality, I was on the sideline in 2008 when she was in the Olympics. I was just hopeful we could get her back to where we know she can be. I think she’s done a remarkable job.”
Both Chalupny and Klingenberg have had some impressive games of late for the U.S., but those have primarily come on the offensive side of play, and against weaker teams. Both were exposed for pace against France in February and both with be judged by their defensive play this summer in Canada.
On the right side of the U.S.’s defense, Ellis spoke about stalwart Ali Kriger, who suffered a scary head injury this weekend in club play. Krieger was hospitalized and Ellis said that she and U.S. Soccer’s medical staff are monitoring the situation closely.
“I’ve spoken to (Ali Krieger) directly. We’re going to go through the protocol. There’s a set ‘return to play’ schedule. She’s doing very well and being closely monitored by our medical team and at the (Washington) Spirit,” Ellis said.
Finally, Ellis addressed Christie Rampone’s recent health issues. The captain, who will turn 40 during the World Cup, has had an injury-plagued spring. However, Ellis said that the injuries are behind Rampone and that the defender’s experience was one of the main reasons she was included in the squad.
“(Rampone) had a back injury in January and came back from that. The next injury was just kind of one of those freakish things that can happen to anybody. She blocked a shot and caught it at the end of her toe and just tweaked her knee a little bit. We scanned her knee and learned it was not an injury that would keep her out more than 7-10 days. You’ve got to look at her value and her experience. Physically, she is still, if not the (fastest), the second-fastest player on the team,” Ellis said.
“She’s been able to rebound very well. I had a conversation with her at the end of our last camp and just said to her I think it’s important that she gets minutes in the NWSL games because to not have any minutes and come into the send-off series without minutes on the field would be a little bit more concerning. I had assurances from our medical staff and Christie herself.”
Ellis continued: “A player that has that much experience, that’s been in the captain’s role, you can’t discount that and I felt confident that she would be healthy.”
The Other Aging Vets
Besides Rampone, Ellis also took time to address the current situations of her two other aging veterans, Abby Wambach and Shannon Boxx.
Wambach recently made the decision to forego the 2015 NWSL season, raising questions about how she will maintain her fitness and form prior to the World Cup—a seeming contradiction to Ellis’ statement about how important club minutes were for Rampone.
Ellis addressed Wambach’s NWSL absence.
“In terms of the lifting cycle, the physical preparation piece, the importance of her being able to play and train, she has an environment that she’s doing that in. She’s such a professional, she’s done this so many times. She’s not going to let the next three weeks go by without really digging in and committing to what we need. She left (camp) as the other players did, with a plan, and I know she’s fully committed to that and executing (the plan).”
Boxx, for her part, made the roster after only making three appearances in the last two years. And all three of those caps were in a substitute role after the 75th minute of play. Despite that, Ellis believes that Boxx is ready and has a part to play for the U.S. in Canada.
“(Initially) I wasn’t sure about taking (Boxx)—would she be ready? In January, I started to see just how far she’d come,” Ellis said. “In the type of role I see her being utilized in, meaning, if it’s about saving some legs and getting one of our center mids some rest, I think she can fill in in that capacity.”
Ellis also said Boxx may be used to help the U.S. defend a lead late in matches. “The other part is being able to close out games. She’s a very good defender in the air. We’ve looked at different situations, different scenarios in how we defend and I think Shannon can give us some experience being able to close out big games.”
With the roster now settled, the U.S. will begin its send-off series against the Republic of Ireland on May 10.
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.