A new beginning for USWNT with Alex Morgan in but no Megan Rapinoe or Carli Lloyd

The U.S. Women's National Team face Netherlands on 27 November in a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final with an experimental squad

By Ken Browne

It's a new day for the USA women's football/soccer team as they gear up to play their first competitive game in 261 days, an away match with 2019 World Cup final opponents Netherlands.

The friendly in Breda on Friday (27 November), will give us a glimpse of the fitness and sharpness levels of both teams after the Covid-19 pandemic disruption that has left the U.S. without a game in over eight months

Co-captains Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, and seven other 2019 World Cup winners — Mal Pugh, Morgan Brian, Adrianna Franch, Ashlyn Harris, Allie Long, Jess McDonald, and Ali Krieger — are not in the USA side.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Alex Morgan headlines the team, while Manchester City’s Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, and Manchester United’s Christen Press and Tobin Heath, who all play in England's Women's Super League, have been included.

Just eight months out from Tokyo 2020, head coach Vlatko Andonovski stressed that his Olympic team is not a done deal and that rotating the roster helps "keep everyone on their toes."

The selection has led to speculation that stalwarts Lloyd (38), and Rapinoe (35), may be coming to the end of their sparkling USWNT careers, but having spoken with each of them, coach is convinced that both are still keen to play their part.

"I don't think that either one of them ... have moved on," says Andonovski, "they're excited and looking forward to January camp."

Rapinoe and Lloyd left out

The omission of double Olympic champion Lloyd and London 2012 gold medallist Rapinoe has been a key talking point in the leadup to the game, just eight months out from Tokyo 2020, with Lloyd very open about how the Olympics in 2021 will mark her retirement.

With 462 appearances between the two talismanic captains, U.S. coach Andonovski spent some time talking about his two global stars.

"With Carli Lloyd, she had a little injury and a little surgery that she's also recovering," explained Andonovski. "Right now, she's not physically ready for the game."

"Rapinoe — she's in a situation where she hasn't been able to train, obviously," he added. "We know she didn't do the [NWSL] Challenge Cup or Fall Series, and she was not able to train in a team environment. So, from a physical perspective, with the short camp that we have, we would not be able to help her get up to speed."

The two high profile players have been the subject of much speculation, that maybe at 38 and 35 their international careers are coming to an end and they were more focussed on new opportunities, but coach insists that's not the case.

"Going back to Carli and Pinoe — I'm excited about where they're at," Andonovski said. "After talking to both of them — I had a conversation with Carli, and I had a great conversation with Pinoe, as well — I don't think that either one of them ... have moved on. They're excited and looking forward to January camp."

United States Roster

The full United States squad to play the Netherlands on 27 November 2020 is:

GOALKEEPERS: Aubrey Bledsoe, Jane Campbell, Alyssa Naeher

DEFENDERS: Alana Cook, Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn, Tierna Davidson, Kelley O’Hara, Margaret Purce, Becky Sauerbrunn, Emily Sonnett

MIDFIELDERS: Julie Ertz, Jaelin Howell, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario, Kristie Mewis, Samantha Mewis

FORWARDS: Ashley Hatch, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Sophia Smith, Lynn Williams

Lindsey Horan was originally selected but caught Covid-19 and was replaced by Jaelin Howell.

The line-up features plenty of familiar names like Kristie Mewis who joins sister Sam Mewis along with some exciting young talents given a shot too including 23-year-old defender Alana Cook, Ashley Hatch who's 25 but has only two international caps and exciting Brazilian-born Catarina Macario, 21.

Macario has been ripping it up with Stanford University and is seen as a future star of the USWNT although registration issues mean we may not see her play in the Netherlands.

Alex Morgan is the clear team leader in the absence of Lloyd and Rapinoe, the other co-captains, Morgan is returning to fitness after the birth of her daughter Charlie and recent move to Tottenham Hotspur in London.

Morgan started her first game in a Spurs shirt last week, and says it's all about getting back to form and fitness before next summer's Olympic Games.

USA still Number 1

USA still top the world rankings, but haven't played since winning the SheBelieves Cup in March 2020 right before the coronavirus pandemic caused a chaos of cancellations and postponements.

“We had to get back on the field for a real game at some point, so it might as well be against one of the best teams in the world,” said Andonovski.

“We have a lot of work to do before the Olympics and facing a really talented Dutch team will give us a good look at where we are at the end of this very unusual year.”

But while the team hasn't played since March, the group did get together for an 11-day training camp last month in greater Denver with players from the National Women’s Soccer League and college teams.

Netherlands, ranked number four in the world, will present a tough challenge for the U.S. four days before the hosts play Kosovo in a Euro 2022 qualifier, a competition they've already qualified for with a perfect nine wins from nine games in the group stage.

“The chance to play against America in the Netherlands does not often arise in practice,” Dutch Coach Sarina Wiegman said.

“So when we heard that they would like to organise a longer training camp in this region during this period, we naturally seized the opportunity with both hands."

Coronavirus Precautions

With Covid-19 still wreaking havoc across Europe, the U.S. delegation has received a quarantine exemption designed for professional sports organizations.

“Everyone entering the environment will be tested for covid-19 before traveling, upon arrival and every two days thereafter,” the USSF said, specifying that the team will not begin full training until “the results of all arrival tests are confirmed.”

Further precautions mean that no spectators will be allowed at this World Cup final replay spectacle.

“It is a great pity that the fans cannot be there now," continued Coach Wiegman, "but we consider ourselves very lucky that, despite the corona pandemic, we can ‘just’ play football.”

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