With less than two months until the USA’s opening match of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Pia Sundhage has named the 21 players who will represent the United States on women’s soccer’s grandest stage.
The 2011 U.S. Women’s World Cup Team finished a three-week training camp in Florida last Friday and is now in Columbus, training for a two-game series (tickets) against fellow Women’s World Cup qualifier Japan taking place on May 14 at Crew Stadium (6:30 p.m. ET on FOX Soccer and FOX Deportes) and May 18 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2).
Leading the way is U.S. captain Christie Rampone who will be playing in her fourth Women’s World Cup and is the last remaining player from the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship team. Midfielder Shannon Boxx and forward Abby Wambach will be playing in their third World Cups. Sundhage named 12 players who will be participating for the first time and six who will be participating for the second time.
The roster, which features three goalkeepers, seven defenders, seven midfielders and four forwards, is a product of nearly three years of player evaluation during which Sundhage and her staff saw the U.S. Women play 34 international matches in 2009, 2010 and 2011, conduct numerous training camps around the country and the world, and watch dozens of WPS matches. Since the 2008 Olympics, Sundhage has called up approximately 50 players for training camps and international games before settling on her final roster.
“It’s a great feeling to have the roster chosen,” said Sundhage. “Now that we have named the roster and are moving forward, we can’t wait for the World Cup. Everybody is healthy and we have great players to choose from. You have all kinds of players that have different qualities on this roster, but all in all, they make up a good team. We have people that organize defensively, people that can step up when it really matters, people that are good in the air, people that are fighters and tricky ones as well.”
Sundhage selected 14 players who were part of the 2008 Olympic gold medal-winning team in Beijing, but just nine players on the roster have previous Women’s World Cup experience.
Of the 21-player roster, six are set for their second Women’s World Cup after making their first World Cup team in 2007. Those players are goalkeepers Nicole Barnhart and Hope Solo, defender Stephanie Cox and midfielders Carli Lloyd, Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O’Reilly. Along with Rampone, Boxx and Wambach, that makes just nine players who were in China four years ago, seven of whom were starters. Lloyd leads the USA in scoring this year with five goals and has scored 27 times internationally.
The inclusion of Tarpley marks her complete return from an ACL injury at the end of the first WPS season in 2009. With 124 caps, Tarpley has the most career goals on the roster (32) of anyone besides Wambach including goals in an Olympic gold medal match and a FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup Final.
The players attending their first Women’s World Cup will be goalkeeper Jill Loyden, defenders Rachel Buehler, Ali Krieger, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts and Becky Sauerbrunn, midfielders Tobin Heath, Lori Lindsey and Megan Rapinoe, and forwards Lauren Cheney, Alex Morgan and Amy Rodriguez. LePeilbet and Mitts both missed out on the 2007 Women’s World Cup due to knee injuries.
Morgan is the youngest player on the squad at 21 while Rampone is the oldest at 35. It is the first U.S. Women’s World Cup roster compiled entirely of professional players.
The naming of Krieger adds another chapter to her remarkable story. After finishing her college career at Penn State in 2007, she joined FFC Frankfurt, one of the top clubs in Germany and the world, eventually winning a European title. She learned to speak fluent German, and after working her way in the picture for a World Cup spot during 2010, will now return to the country that was her home for the past four years.
Solo had perhaps the most difficult route to full fitness in order to make the team, recovering from major shoulder surgery last September to earn her spot. Mitts, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, also won a race to make the final roster, overcoming hamstring issues that have limited her to just one match so far this year. Loyden, who recovered from a broken hand suffered last January, won the battle for the third goalkeeper spot and makes the Women’s World Cup team.
Five of the players who made their first World Cup squad were part of the 2008 Olympic champions in Buehler, Mitts, Heath, Cheney and Rodriguez. Krieger, LePeilbet, Lindsey, Sauerbrunn, Rapinoe and Morgan will participate in their first world championship at the senior level.
Buehler played in two FIFA U-19 FIFA Women’s World Cups, in 2002 in Canada and in 2004 in Thailand. Sauerbrunn and Rapinoe represented the USA in in Thailand while Heath was one of the youngest players at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Russia. Rodriguez played in both Thailand and Russia while Cheney was on the 2006 team in Russia. Morgan helped lead the USA to the title at the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile.
Sauerbrunn and Lindsey make the team after seeing limited national team action earlier in their careers but both came on strong over the past year or so. Lindsey earned one cap in 2005 and did not play again for the USA until 2010 when she earned 10 caps and fashioned a role for herself off the bench in the center midfield. She has five caps so far this year. Sauerbrunn earned two caps in 2008, but did not return to the U.S. team until last fall when she made the roster for CONCACAF qualifying and worked her way into the mix with consistent play and versatility on the back line, appearing in one game last year and six so far this year.
The average for caps for the 21 players named to the roster is 72 and they have a combined 57 games worth of Women’s World Cup experience. Just three of the players on the roster have previously scored in a World Cup in Wambach (9 goals), Boxx (3 goals) and O’Reilly (2 goals), but the roster has scored a total of 280 international goals, 117 from Wambach. Seven players have surpassed 100 caps with Rampone leading the way with 234. Rampone will be the most-capped player at the Women’s World Cup.
“We went to China for the Olympics in 2008 with Christie Rampone as our captain and the way she is stepping up and the way she handles herself on and off the field, she is the best captain I’ve ever worked with or played with or been around,” said Sundhage. “She brings out good things from the team.”
Of the 11 players who started the 2008 Olympic gold medal game, eight were named to this Women’s World Cup roster. The 2011 U.S. Women’s World Cup Team is an experienced side with an average age of just more than 27 years old. Four players on the roster hail from California while five are from New Jersey. Indiana is the only other state with multiple players in Lindsey and Cheney, both of whom are from Indianapolis.
Of the WPS clubs, magicJack has the most players on the roster with seven. The Boston Breakers and the Philadelphia Independence have four each, while the Atlanta Beat and Sky Blue FC have two each and the Western New York Flash have one in Morgan. Krieger, who played out her contract with Frankfurt at the end of March, is the only player on the roster not currently signed with a club.
The USA will play its Women’s World Cup Send-Off Match on June 5 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. (2 p.m. ET on ESPN2) before the players go on a break (tickets). The U.S. team will leave for Austria in mid-June for a pre-Women’s World Cup training camp.
The USA, which has been drawn into Group C with Korea DPR, Colombia and Sweden, opens its tournament on June 28 in Dresden against the Koreans in a match that will be broadcast live on ESPN at 11:45 a.m. ET.
“We need to continue to work on fitness and other things so we sharpen up a little bit and make sure everyone is healthy,” said Sundhage. “But the biggest thing for these days in front of us will be balancing how much we should work on defending and how much we work on the attack. If I look back in 2008, we did a great job in our preparation for the Olympics, and while it’s important to give them a little bit of everything, we also must stick with the game plan as we move toward our group games.”
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster by Position - Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Nicole Barnhart (Philadelphia Independence)**, Jill Loyden (magicJack)*, Hope Solo (magicJack)**
DEFENDERS (7): Rachel Buehler (Boston Breakers)*, Stephanie Cox (Boston Breakers)**, Ali Krieger (out of contract)*, Amy LePeilbet (Boston Breakers)*, Heather Mitts (Atlanta Beat)*, Christie Rampone (magicJack)****, Becky Sauerbrunn (magicJack)*
MIDFIELDERS (7): Shannon Boxx (magicJack)***, Tobin Heath (Sky Blue FC)*, Lori Lindsey (Philadelphia Independence)*, Carli Lloyd (Atlanta Beat)**, Heather O’Reilly (Sky Blue FC)**, Megan Rapinoe (Philadelphia Independence)*, Lindsay Tarpley (magicJack)**
FORWARDS (4): Lauren Cheney (Boston Breakers)*, Alex Morgan (Western New York Flash)*, Amy Rodriguez (Philadelphia Independence)*, Abby Wambach (magicJack)***
* First Women’s World Cup
** Second Women’s World Cup
*** Third Women’s World Cup
**** Fourth Women’s World Cup