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Why Trinity Rodman, NWSL’s Highest-Paid Player, Was Left Off USWNT’s SheBelieves Cup Roster

The 2022 SheBelieves Cup will be the least challenging yet for the U.S. women’s national team. So Vlatko Andonovski is giving less-experienced players an opportunity to show what they can do. But the USWNT roster for the 2022 SheBelieves Cup left off two of the nation’s most promising young players.

Andonovski unveiled his 23-woman USWNT roster for the SheBelieves Cup on Thursday morning. Veterans like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press, Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz weren’t on the team; Crystal Dunn is out pregnant (though she’s still training). Newbies like Sophia Smith, Ashley Hatch, Midge Purce, Ashley Sanchez, Emily Fox, Alana Cook and Aubrey Kingsbury were included.

The absences of those veterans aren’t a huge surprise — the U.S. should be able to beat the competition in the SheBelieves Cup with its B or C team — but it was a surprise to see two names not on the roster: Trinity Rodman and Jaelin Howell.

The roster is largely made up of players who participated in the USWNT January camp in Austin, Texas, with the addition of Catarina Macario, who was playing with Lyon, and Becky Sauerbrunn, who was injured. The camp — and the SheBelieves Cup — will serve as warmups to the Concacaf W Championship, which itself serves as World Cup and Olympic qualifying. 

“We had a great camp in Austin and now we need to see this group of players in game environments against highly-motivated opponents,” Andonovski said. “Every player in the pool is focused on making the roster for World Cup and Olympic qualifying this summer, and every training session and especially every match is a means to that end for them, and for the coaching staff. The SheBelieves Cup is also a great opportunity to help prepare for rhythm of group play at the Concacaf W Championship as we have to face three different opponents and different styles of play over a short period of time.”

The biggest surprise from the roster is the fact Trinity Rodman, who on Wednesday took advantage of the new NWSL CBA to sign the richest contract in NWSL history, was left off. Rodman, 19, was named 2021 NWSL Rookie of the Year and U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year after being selected No. 2 in the NWSL draft. She led the NWSL with seven assists to go with seven goals last season but has yet to make her USWNT debut.

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Andonovski did include Rodman as a “training player” on the team, meaning she’ll continue to practice with the USWNT, she just won’t be playing in the games, something he did with Pugh last year. The coach said he wanted to bring Rodman along slowly, which is understandable for a teenager. That said, she was clearly one of the best players on the pitch in the NWSL Championship game last year, so it’s odd to feel the need to protect her. It’s possible Rodman could be added to the squad if there’s an injury. 

One wonders if the fact Rodman turned down an opportunity to go to Australia to represent the U.S. in November played into Andonovski’s decision. But Mal Pugh, who also turned down that call-up, was included in the roster. Both were suspected to have declined the invite because they were not vaccinated, a requirement to enter Australia, which will co-host the 2023 Women’s World Cup with New Zealand. 

The other big surprise to miss the roster was Jaelin Howell. The 22-year-old, who won back-to-back Hermann Trophies as the best player in college soccer, was a part of the January camp but didn’t make the final cut for the first 2022 USWNT roster. A strong midfielder, she faces a tough task to get playing time ahead of the likes of Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle and Andi Sullivan, not to mention Ertz when she returns to the squad. 

Howell’s potential roster spot may have gone instead to Morgan Gautrat, who was known as Morgan Brian the last time she played for the USWNT. Gautrat, 28, returns to the squad for the first time since 2019 and was a member of both the 2015 and 2019 Women’s World Cup champions. 

Other things to watch for from this USWNT roster: 

  • Becky Sauerbrunn’s 200th cap (she’s on 199)
  • Alyssa Naeher’s return (she was injured at the 2020 Olympics)
  • Aubrey Kingsbury’s potential debut (she’s the only uncapped player)

The biggest question for the USNWT roster will be who scores the goals. The lack of experience up front means midfielder Horan is the top scorer on the roster with 25, followed by Lavelle and Pugh (both with 18). Hatch scored in both Australia friendlies in November, but it will be interesting to see if Macario, who can play just about everywhere on the pitch, is deployed as a false nine or pure striker. 

The U.S. will open the 2022 SheBelieves Cup against the Czech Republic on Feb. 17 followed by games against New Zealand on Feb. 20 and Iceland on Feb. 23. It’s the worst lineup ever for the SheBelieves Cup.

USWNT Roster 2022 SheBelieves Cup

Player (Club, caps/goals)

  • Goalkeepers: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit; 0), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 2), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 78)
  • Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign; 4/0), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC; 77/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 45/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 8/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 9/0), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 148/2), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 63/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 199/0)
  • Midfielders: Morgan Gautrat (Chicago Red Stars; 87/8), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA; 108/25), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 68/18), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA; 12/3), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 33/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 22/2)
  • Forwards: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 4/2), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 67/18), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 9/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current; 45/14)

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