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Looking ahead towards the Olympics: USWNT June friendlies

In the last camp before the Olympic roster is selected many players will be fighting to make the 18 going to Tokyo.

Margaret Purce and Kristi Mewis
John Raoux/ Associated Press

The USWNT will take on Portugal, Jamaica, and Nigeria on June 10th, 13th, and 16th respectively. This is the final camp for USWNT players before the squad selections for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There is an expectation that the mainstays within the USWNT like Abby Dahlkemper, Rose Lavelle, and Alex Morgan will all be going to Tokyo but there are also those looking to make their first major tournament roster appearance.

With only 8 players allowed on the Olympic roster (plus four alternates) there will most certainly be names left out from the June friendlies that will not be going to Tokyo later this summer. Two mainstay names, Julie Ertz and Tobin Heath will not be available for these June friendlies but if they gain fitness in time, you can most certainly guarantee their names on the Olympic roster. That’s already two spots taken up by players who won’t be involved in these upcoming friendlies, which leaves not only little wiggle room for Vlatko Andonovski but the players on the outside looking in as well.

The goalkeepers

Adrianna Franch
Julio Cortez/ AP Photo

Jane Campbell and Adrianna Franch look the most likely to be the backups for Alyssa Naeher in Tokyo this summer. The question will be which of the two will be the true backup and which will be the alternate. Franch has a leg up on Campbell as she made the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup roster, while Campbell did not. With not much difference in their national team appearances (Campbell has five appearances and two clean sheets for the while Franch has four appearances and one clean sheet), what it may come down to is how well they perform for their club teams, Houston Dash and Portland Thorns FC respectively. That remains a tricky question as well as they have both performed at similar levels in the National Women’s Soccer League. Campbell has allowed six goals and made 13 saves in five games for the Houston Dash while Franch has allowed four goals and made seven saves in five games for the Portland Thorns. This will be one of the more intriguing questions going into the Olympics for those who follow the USWNT. With not much difference between the two, who will Vlatko look to as the right person to fill Naeher’s boots should the worst happen before or during the tournament?

Given that Franch was on World Cup roster, I think she will be the backup to Naeher with Campbell named as an alternate.

The backline

Margaret “Midge” Purce
Sam Greenwood/ Getty Images

During these upcoming friendlies, eight defenders were called up to the national team roster. Among those were Alanna Cook and Margaret Purce who will probably the bubble players that Andonovski will choose from when it comes to who stays and who goes to the Olympics. Of the two, Cook has spent the past season playing as a defender (both at center back and full back) for Paris Saint-Germain, helping them to their first title in 14 seasons. Purce on the other hand, has spent most of her current NWSL season playing up top for NJ/NY Gotham FC. On occassion, she has played further back but she has been more impactful as a forward than a defender.

Both players are versatile; however, Purce will probably be taken over Cook because of her experience at left and right back, two positions where the USWNT lacks depth.

The midfield

Kristie Mewis
Brad Smith/ ISI Photos/ Getty Images

In midfield, Catarina Macario, Andi Sullivan, and Kristie Mewis are fighting for a chance to play at the Olympics. Macario is playing for French powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais where she currently has five goals. The USWNT has her listed as a midfielder but for OL she has been playing as a forward in the No. 9 role. Macario was ranked as the best player under 21 by ESPN FC and is not only a talented finisher but she has shown that she’s capable of creating chances for her teammates as well.

Andi Sullivan has spent most of her professional career playing as a holding midfielder for the Washington Spirit. Not only is she solid positionally but she also has an eye for a pass and tends to read the field very well, in transition and out of it. Sullivan would probably benefit from more minutes playing deep in the USWNT midfield in the June friendlies to further her cause and with Ertz being absent, Andonovski has the opprotunity to do that. With that in mindm should Andi Sullivan perform well with whatever minutes she gets, having a backup for Ertz might be crucial going into a condensed tournament like the Olympics.

Kristie Mewis has seen her career revitalized under Vlatko Andonvski and with the Dash recently. Mewis is acomplete midfielder who can slide into a number of roles but shows her true talent when further forward. That’s been evident not only with the national team but also with the Houston Dash this season, picking up a goal and two assists so far.

Of the three Mewis should make the roster because of her ability to preform on both sides of the ball. She may not get a starting position but she can be a game changing substitute. If Ertz has not recovered in time for the Olympics I think Sullivan will be named to the roster.

The forwards

Sophia Smith
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sophia Smith and Lynn Williams are the two forwards with the least experience named to the June roster which likely means they will be fighting for an Olympic roster spot. Smith has started off strongly in her sophomore season, earning her the number 6 spot on ESPN FC’s Best Players under 21. So far this NWSL season Smith has two goals from 15 attempts with the Portland Thorns. If she continues her NWSL form in the June friendlies she has a very good chance of going to Tokyo.

Williams missed out on going to the 2019 World Cup and she may miss out on another major tournament. Despite being one of the best scorers in he NWSL, Williams and the North Carolina Courage have been off to a slower than usual start in 2021. Williams has one goal in two games after 12 attempts. Smith is more likely to be named to the Tokyo squad, but if Williams performs well in the June matches then she may be chosen over Smith due to her overall experience and ability to press, something that Vlatko likes in his forwards.

Given that Smith is seen as part of the future generation of USWNT players I think she will go to the Olympics, making it her first major tournament with the National Team.