The U.S. Women’s National Team faces Nigeria Sept. 3 (12:30 p.m. CT ) at Children’s Mercy Park and then again Sept. 6 at Audi Field. These games will be the seventh and eight meetings of the two nations with the U.S. winning all six previous matches.
Nigeria and the U.S. last played in June of 2021 as part of the run up to the delayed 2020 Olympics. The U.S. finished a disappointing third behind an excellent Canada squad and a quality Sweden side. The U.S. beat Nigeria 2-0 that day and none of the players involved in the goals that day are on this roster, Christen Press assisted by Carli Lloyd and Lynn Williams assisted by Press.
The Next World Cup Squad
Injuries, age and the need to continuously improve has head coach Vlatko Andonovski building a new core group for the World Cup next year. Some players, if healthy would be highly likely on this roster like Sam Mewis, Catarina Macario and several more create opportunities.
At the Olympics, Andonovski took a very veteran team and by United States Women’s team standards, they under performed. An Olympic Bronze would be a great achievement for most countries, but not for the “Greatest Team in the World” and their fans.
Andonovski’s challenge was finding and integrating the next generation while still keeping the experience and standards from the previous core group.
“Significantly different,” Andonovski responded when asked about how different this roster was compared to the Olympic roster. “A totally different team but one thing we know is the style hasn’t changed, the principles and the game model stays the same. Now we just want to get better at it.”
The big prize is always the World Cup, Olympics are more important in the Women’s game than the men but it still pales compared to adding another star over the crest. When the CONCACAF W Championship was held in July and some teams from the CONCACAF region could qualify for the World Cup and a smaller subset for the Olympics. The U.S. won their first two games in the tournament, qualifying for the World Cup. The U.S. knew which was most important and started thinking World Cup as soon as they knew they were qualified.
“The preparation for the World Cup started after the second game in CONCACAF (Championship). After we won the game against Jamaica, on the way back is when we started to prepare for the World Cup,” Andonovski explained. “So the remaining games, games three, four, five in CONCACAF are games we wanted to win and secure a spot in the Olympics but also we wanted to start preparing for the World Cup.”
The U.S. won the CONCACAF Championship and qualified for the Olympics, but you could see different strategies and game plans being tested. From now until the World Cup next year in Australia and New Zealand, it will be about getting this core group ready.
“I’ve said this, and the players know this and it’s no secret. We are not ready right now to compete in the World cup but we are trending in the right direction. I think that it’s a fairly young group or fairly new group that I would say that needs to spend time together. In this window, one of the things we want to do is just synchronize those lines,” Andonovski stated.
Youth and experience and in between
“We are a little more youthful,” Becky Sauerbrunn described the difference between this and the Olympic roster. “That injection of youth is helping the team in general be very competitive, fighting for spots for time on field.”
“It’s hugely important for a team to have that kind of spectrum of the age, but also the experience,” Sauerbrunn added. “You have people that have over 200 caps, 100 caps, but then we also have people that are just getting their first ones. So, it’s exciting, they bring that youthful energy as well, but I can’t speak enough about the competitiveness and what that brings to every single training session, every single day.”
It is a wide range of experience in camp. The most capped player is Becky Sauerbrunn with 207. Alex Morgan (196), Megan Rapinoe (192) approach that 200 club. The next closest is Lindsey Horan (116) but on the other end are players like Casey Murphy (8), Naomi Girma (6), Taylor Kornieck (5), Hailie Mace (3), Aubrey Kingsbury (1). Sam Coffey and Savannah DeMelo have yet to make their USWNT debuts.
The mix is intentional by Andonovski, “Having the blend is important, having the right mix is even more important. You’ve got to have the right people, first from the older generation who are first and foremost selfless and willing to help the next generation in whatever it takes to step in.”
“The middle generation are the most important ones in camp,” Andonovski continued. “They still have youthfulness in them, the hunger and the drive but are also experienced. That’s the Lindsey Horan’s or the Rose Lavelle’s in the camp. The young ones bring the energy, the enthusiasm, the intensity and we are fortunate that the young ones are also very good players. We are at the point that we have a pretty good mix and now just fine-tune it going forward.”
KC Current’s Hailie Mace on the roster
Kansas City Current defender Hailie Mace replaced Washington Spirit defender Kelley O’Hara on the 23-player U.S. Women’s National Team roster. O’Hara was ruled out of camp due to a lingering hip injury.
Mace has three caps and may get an opportunity to add to that total in her home stadium in Kansas City Saturday. Mace has been in the national team pool since 2018 when she received her first official call-up for the 2018 Concacaf Women’s Championship.Mace also played in friendlies vs. Mexico and Chile earlier in 2018. Mace also attended the U.S. Women’s National Team Identification Training Camp in December of 2019.
Andonovski has had the benefit of watching Mace in person frequently as a resident of Kansas City. “Hailie’s call up is the outcome of good performances, it’s not one or two games that she’s played well. We followed her since the beginning of the season. Actually she ended up playing well last season and just continued where she left it.”
The U.S. often use their outside backs to get forward aggressively and Mace’s style fits right in that mode for Andonovski. “Because of the role that she has on her own team, she is slightly more aggressive going forward. She’s a little more offensive minded and that’s how we want to play, we want to be a little more aggressive. We want to play on the front foot and I think that she will slide in a very well.”
U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB) – SEPT. FRIENDLIES VS. NIGERIA:
DEFENDERS (6): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current); Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC) Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
NIGERIA WOMEN’S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION
Goalkeepers (2): 16-Chiamaka Nnadozie (Paris F.C, FRA), 1-Christy Ohiaeriaku (Edo Queens F.C.)
Defenders (7): 3-Osinachi Ohale (Deportivo Alaves, ESP), 8-Rofiat Adenike Imuran (Rivers Angels F.C.), 11-Akudo Ogbonna (Edo Queens F.C.), 17-Nicole Payne (West Virginia University, USA), 4-Glory Ogbonna (ALG Spor, TUR), 12-Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash, USA), 5-Blessing Demehin (Rivers Angel F.C.)
Midfielders (6): 7-Toni Payne (Sevilla F.C, ESP), 13-Christy Ucheibe (SL Benfica, POR), 10-Amanda Mbadi (Atasehir Belediyespor, TUR), 18-Onyi Echegini (Florida State University, USA), 19-Deborah Abiodun (Rivers Angel F.C.), 20-Esther Onyenezide (FC Robo Queens)
Forwards (5): 6-Uchenna Kanu (Tigres UANL, MEX), 15-Rasheedat Ajibade (Atletico Madrid, ESP), 14-Vivian Ikechukwu (FC Gintra, LTU), 2-Gift Monday (FC Robo Queens F.C), 9-Ifeoma Onumonu (NJ/NY Gotham FC, USA)