United States women's national team coach Vlatko Andonovski's first roster of 2021 is out. On Wednesday, U.S. Soccer announced the full roster which features a heavy number of NWSL players, some collegiate stars, and the return of some USWNT mainstays like Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe. Big names like Tobin Heath (Man United) and Christen Press (Man United) continue to play overseas while Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) recently announced she is recovering from COVID-19.
The roster announcement comes just after the USWNT closed out their 2020 with a victory in Europe against the Netherlands. The 2019 World Cup final rematch was played in Netherlands on Nov. 27 and was a repeat 2-0 victory for the USWNT in their return to play after being absent from international play due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"A big credit goes to our players, team staff and overall medical staff for the tremendous work to make sure we have secure and healthy environments for our camps and games," said head coach Vlatko Andonovski. "And a special thanks also goes to our game operations staff for enabling us to host two matches against a talented opponent. It's extremely valuable to play a team we don't see that often and it's important for our Olympic preparation."
The current training camp will take place come Jan. 9 and run through Jan. 22, with games currently scheduled to take place against Colombia on Jan. 18 (7 p.m. ET on FS1) and Jan. 22 (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2). Both matches will be played at Exploria Stadium, home to NWSL's Orlando Pride and Orlando City SC of MLS.
While the matches are ongoing, the National Women's Soccer League will be preparing and hosting their college draft which takes place on Jan. 13. Eligible players are currently able to register and declare themselves available for selection in the upcoming draft, with lots of interest around college players including current camp players Catarina Macario, Jaelin Howell, and Emily Fox. NWSL was granted a recent NCAA waiver approval, meaning Division I student-athletes will be allowed to enter the 2021 NWSL Draft and choose whether they will report to their NWSL club immediately or at the conclusion of the spring collegiate season.
The recent approval is the first of it's kind, spurred on by the impact of the pandemic, and is already placing intriguing dialogue around how the upcoming draft could look like.
"I've elaborated a lot on what I feel. The college players should do in this upcoming draft, in terms of whether they should stay in college or go professional. Obviously it's an individual decision, and as the national team coach I will respect and support it and be there for those players and help them furthermore with whichever way they take," said Andonovski.
Player eligible lists will be made public soon, and uncertainty around what potential prospects are interested will dominate potential planning for teams preparing for the rapidly approaching draft. Having been on the other side of the draft day table, Vlatko understands and sympathizes with the challenges current NWSL coaches may have preparing for this upcoming draft in light of the new rules and ongoing pandemic.
"Now, with the waiver that they got from the NCAA that's that throws a little different tweak to the whole process," explained Andonovski.
"I'm actually excited for the players because it seems like it gives the players a little more opportunity. But on the other side. I feel bad for for the NWSL coaches because now it throws a little more uncertainty and a little more work too. I mean, it will take a little more research, it will add another layer to their job. But I'm pretty sure, I'm very confident with the NWSL coaches, with the league, and the teams that they're going to do a good job and do their due diligence in the in the research and make the right decision."
U.S. ROSTER (CLUB)
GOALKEEPERS (4): Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
DEFENDERS (10): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA), Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Fox (UNC), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O'Hara (Washington Spirit), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Jaelin Howell (Florida State), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG), Catarina Macario (Stanford), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
FORWARDS (5): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage)