AUSTIN, Texas – The United States Women’s National Team is full speed to Tokyo.
The defending World Cup champions and four-time Olympic gold medalists closed out their 2021 Summer Series, a string of tune-up matches ahead of this summer’s Olympic tournament, with a 2-0 win against Nigeria Wednesday night in Austin, Texas.
Christen Press scored the opening goal, the first in the history of Austin’s new Q2 Stadium, with a left-footed first-time strike, extending her remarkable run of form. The Manchester United winger has now scored or assisted on 34 goals in her last 36 games. Press also assisted Lynn Williams for the USWNT’s second goal.
Now, head coach Vlatko Andonovski has some decisions to make. The current roster of 23 must be cut down to the final Olympic squad of 18 before the USWNT kicks another ball in an international match. Victories over Portugal, Jamaica and now Nigeria in the Summer Series have given Andonovski plenty to chew on.
“The confidence level going to the Olympics is higher than it was before. I feel good where we are at. In terms of making final decisions, I feel pretty good,” Andonovski said following Wednesday’s match.
While Andonovski must produce his first major tournament roster as USWNT chief, many of the players he’ll name to the squad have been here several times before. Defender Becky Sauerbrunn has been a part of five such teams – she is a virtual lock to make her sixth Olympics or World Cup squad this summer – and understands the dynamic that comes with roster cuts.
“There are nerves, people will be getting phones calls,” Sauerbrunn said. “I think we’ve got an amazing team. There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll have a team that can win everything.”
Sauerbrunn played all 120 minutes of Team USA’s penalty kick defeat against Sweden at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The quarterfinal exit was the earliest the Americans have ever departed a major international tournament. A desire to rectify things at the Tokyo Olympics has given Andonovski’s squad extra motivation.
The Macedonian-American manager has tipped his hand somewhat on who will – and who will not – be aboard the flight to Tokyo. Of the 23 players in the Summer Series camp, 11 are must-haves on the roster. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher; defenders Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn and Kelley O’Hara; midfielders Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan and Samantha Mewis; and forwards Press, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan fall into this category.
Also likely to be included are backup goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, defender Emily Sonnett and forwards Williams, who scored Wednesday, and Carli Lloyd who was honored before the match for surpassing 300 appearances with the national team.
That leaves just three remaining rosters spots for Tokyo and eight players from which to choose. However, two of the USWNT’s brightest stars, Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz, are also on Andonovski’s radar each nears recovery from injury. If either or both are fully fit, they will almost certainly be among the final 18.
The U.S. takes on Mexico in a pair of July friendlies before setting off to Japan, where rivals Sweden await in the first Olympic group stage match, July 21.