May 22, 2013, 4:03 PM EDT
We took a day to think about it, but even upon reflection, it’s difficult to find the twist, hidden gem, or angle on the 21-woman squad Tom Sermanni named for the U.S. Women’s June 2 trip to Toronto. Set to meet their Canadian rivals for the first time since last summer’s 4-3 semifinal win at the 2012 Summer Olympics, the U.S. will take will the usual cast of gold-collecting characters, save a couple of prominent injuries and one star who’ll be allowed to complete her French sojourn.
Let’s take a few minutes to break it down. Later in the day, we’ll double back with some long-winded analysis:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City), Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Jill Loyden (Sky Blue FC)
No Hope Solo, much to the diehards’ chagrin. She’ll train with the team ahead of the game at BMO but is still a few weeks away from coming back from wrist surgery. She might see some action against South Korea, games scheduled for June 15 and 20.
There’s also no future-Boston Breaker Alyssa Naeher, who’s set to come to the NWSL after two successful seasons starting for Frauen Bundesliga powers Turbine Potsdam. Instead, Tom Sermanni has called in Jill Loyden, whose broken hand has kept her for putting in a minute’s time with Sky Blue.
DEFENDERS (8): Rachel Buehler (Portland Thorns FC), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina), Whitney Engen (Liverpool), Julie Johnston (Santa Clara), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)
“I am Jack’s completely lack of surprise,” though with good reason. With the exception of Amy LePeilbet, recovering from knee injury, everybody’s healthy. This is the octet you’d expect to be called up. If you’re expecting someone new, you’ve got to ask either (a) who gets dropped, or (b) why should they call in nine defenders for one game? Especially when the game day quad will be 18, not 21.
Unfortunately, this 21 lacks a natural left back, even though converted attacker Kelley O’Hara has been very good on the national team-level in 2013. The concern is deeper on the depth chart, where the apparent second choice is attacking midfielder Kristie Mewis. Some of the central defenders are also options, as is Dunn, but it seems strange (and perhaps, inconsequential) that a team with the U.S.’s depth of talent still doesn’t have one natural left back on the roster.
But the bigger story here is at left-center back. Rachel Buehler’s the incumbent, yet Whitney Engen’s coming strong. Sermanni hasn’t settled into a clear starting pair, and two years out from the World Cup, there’ll be no need to do so before June 2.
MIDFIELDERS (6): Amber Brooks (Bayern Munich), Lauren Cheney (FC Kansas City), Tobin Heath (Paris Saint-Germain), Carli Lloyd (Western NY Flash), Kristie Mewis (FC Kansas City), Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers)
Amber Brooks – so touted for her play at U-levels; so successful as a midfielder and defender at North Carolina; so valuable to Bayern Munich’s strong Bundesliga finish – gets her first honest-to-goodness callup. She trained with the team in March ahead of games against Germany and the Netherlands. Now, she’s fully in, apparently taking the spot of Göteborg’s Yael Averbuch (or, depending on how you look at it, the injured Shannon Boxx).
Carli Lloyd’s made one appearance for Western New York since recovering from a shoulder injury, but she gets invited to the reunion. Megan Rapinoe, however, does not. She’s being allowed to stay with Lyon as the French powers compete in the finals of both Champions League and the French Cup.
Keep an eye on Lauren Cheney, one of the NWSL’s best players this season. She’s excelled as a number ten in Kansas City, but the U.S.’s current setup doesn’t have a role for that kind of player. She’s likely to start in central midfield, albeit in the box-to-box role where, while competent, she hasn’t made the impact she has with the Blues.
FORWARDS (4): Sydney Leroux (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Tyresö), Abby Wambach (Western NY Flash)
This foursome in written in ink on every piece of scrap paper within Tom Sermanni’s reach. Bored in a bar? It’s on the napkins. Doodling at the counter while waiting for his car? Both little custom post-it notes sitting by the pencil bin have “Morgan-Wambach-Leroux-Press” printed across the top. If those four are healthy, they’re coming in, making life difficult on the Sarah Hagens and Lindsey Horans of the world.
Morgan and Wambach are expected to start, especially with #chasingmia still a #realthing. Wambach sits on 155 career goals, three short of the legendary Mia Hamm’s all-time record. Though she hasn’t started every game since this became a chase, Wambach hasn’t always been in form. Now, after recovering from her early-season concussion with Western New York, she is. She should get the call at BMO on June 2.
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