United States women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski departed his final, official press conference prior to naming his 2023 World Cup roster with a familiar note: league form matters, and the next few months would determine who gets on the plane to New Zealand.
Roughly a dozen players are fighting for the final six or seven spots on the roster, he said. The subsequent three months of form in league play — chiefly, the National Women’s Soccer League — would determine who among that group makes the World Cup roster.
So, rather than writing and rewriting a mock roster each week, The Equalizer will be periodically tracking the form of players who ostensibly still have something to prove in this battle for a place at the World Cup. We will drill down on certain positions and players as warranted. There is no better place to start than the forward line, which took a dramatic turn recently, given the long-term injury sustained by Mallory Swansonthe team’s most in-form player in 2023.
First, let’s acknowledge the roster locks. There are plenty of them, and the forward line was the one area of the starting lineup that felt set in stone prior to Swanson’s injury. Alex Morgan and Sophia Smith remain etched in permanent marker on the team sheet. With Swanson’s injury, the question is: Who will join them?
The subtext to that is this: What do the rest of the forwards — particularly wingers — need to do in order to earn a roster spot and, potentially, become that starter on the other wing?
“What can they do?” Andonovski asked rhetorically on April 11. “If they are goalkeepers, don’t get scored on; if they are forwards, score goals. Obviously, good performances. There’s a group of players that we feel very comfortable with and we’ve communicated with them that all we’re going to need from them is to just maintain an OK form, a decent form. We know that at this time, there will be times when they are not going to have a good game or two games, which is OK. We trust their abilities, we trust that they’re good players and they’re a good fit for our team.
“And then there’s a group of players that we talked about that performances are going to be evaluated a little bit more as an individual performance but also they are going to be evaluated in a way, how much their performances are a good fit for what we do as well.”
Throughout this series, we will be keeping tabs on that second group, the players still jockeying for either starting roles or roster spots. At the forward position, things are looking mighty interesting.
Alyssa Thompson: Surging up the depth chart
Alyssa Thompson started packing her bags to join the US team moments after Swanson went down injured on April 8. That Thompson got the call was a clear indication of the 18-year-old’s place in the depth chart. She had already scored for Angel City FC just moments into her NWSL debut on March 26. Her league form has continued to impress since.
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