If you just look at the opponent, the USWNT’s April friendlies against Uzbekistan are likely to be fairly drab. Matches against the 48th-ranked team in the world in Ohio and Philadelphia, on the face of it, don’t really kindle much enthusiasm. But the April USWNT roster makes it clear: This is the final chance for some young players to earn a spot on the team at World Cup and Olympic qualifying this summer in Mexico.
Vlatko Andonovski unveiled his latest USWNT roster on Tuesday for April training camp and friendlies against Uzbekistan on April 9 and 12. Once again, many of the team’s veterans have been left off, the U.S. instead choosing to stick with youth with just a few matches left before a big summer of qualifying.
Here we come, Columbus and Philly!The 23 players called in for camp » https://t.co/pF6lFf6igG#USWNT x @BioSteelSports pic.twitter.com/kElqUaT8SA
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) March 29, 2022
For a team that has for years been built around an experienced core, just two players with more than 100 appearances were selected: Kelley O’Hara (150 caps) and Lindsey Horan (108). It follows a recent trend since the end of Carli Lloyd’s farewell tour last fall in which the U.S. has slowly integrated younger players to freshen up for the 2023 Women’s World Cup cycle. The U.S. travels to Mexico to take part in the Concacaf W Championship in July, which will serve as both World Cup and Olympic qualifying.
Andonovski has chosen to not select stalwarts like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, Tobin Heath and Christen Press. Julie Ertz is unlikely to play this season. Lynn Williams and Tierna Davidson just suffered season-ending injuries with their clubs. Crystal Dunn is out while pregnant.
The only goalkeeper with national team experience is Alyssa Naeher, likely to remain the No. 1 throughout the upcoming WWC cycle. Three USWNT players are older than the country of Uzbekistan, which declared independence from the USSR in September 1991.
The only players on this current USWNT roster who seem locks to make the squad come July are Naeher, Horan, O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle. Catarina Macario and Mal Pugh seem like good bets, but after that it’s anyone’s guess.
Ladies and gentlemen…
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) March 29, 2022
And that’s what makes this USWNT roster interesting — young players being given a chance to show they belong at the top level of international football. Many of them were given an opportunity at the SheBelieves Cup in February, and this is likely their final chance to impress Andonovski. The USWNT will play another set of friendlies prior to the Concacaf W Championship, but those matches will likely be treated more as warmups than tryouts.
Players worth watching this international window against Uzbekistan include Emily Fox (23 years old), Alana Cook (24), Imani Dorsey (26), Naomi Girma (21), Ashley Sanchez (23), Jaelin Howell (22), Sophia Smith (21), Ashley Hatch (26) and Trinity Rodman (19).
I think a lot of USWNT fans will be interested in seeing Rodman given her first international start after coming off the bench twice in the SheBelieves Cup. The teenager became the highest-paid NWSL player ever in February and hasn’t been afraid to mix it up with USWNT veterans on social media, including a recent Twitter spat with Ashlyn Harris, who is not on this team, nor is her wife Ali Krieger.
While every player on this USWNT roster has received a call-up before, three have yet to receive their first cap: goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury (formerly Bledsoe), keeper Bella Bixby and defender Girma.
The two friendlies against Uzbekistan should, in theory, be easy wins. The Asian nation is ranked 48th in the world and 10th in AFC. The first match kicks off at 5:30 p.m. ET on April 9 from Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio, and will be broadcast on FOX and Univision networks. The second kicks off at 7 p.m. ET on April 12 from Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, and will be broadcast on ESPN2 and Univision networks.
April 2022 USWNT Roster vs. Uzbekistan
Goalkeepers: Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC; 0), Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 79)
Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign; 7/0), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC; 77/0), Imani Dorsey (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 1/0), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 11/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 10/0), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC; 0/0), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 150/2)
Midfielders: Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA; 108/25), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville FC; 4/0), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 69/18), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA; 15/5), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 36/5), Samantha Mewis (Kansas City Current; 83/24), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 5/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 25/2)
Forwards: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 6/3), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 70/21), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 12/2), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 13/1)