Kevin Baxter writes about soccer and other things for the Los Angeles Times, where he has worked for 24 years. He has covered five World Cups, three Olympic Games, six World Series and a Super Bowl and has contributed to three Pulitzer Prize-winning series at The Times and Miami Herald. An essay he wrote in fifth grade was voted best in the class. He has a cool dog.
Vlatko Andonovski’s roster for next month’s Olympic soccer tournament features few surprises, with the U.S. coach selecting 18 women who have combined for 26 Women’s World Cup medals, eight Olympic golds and nearly 2,000 games of international experience.
Topping that list in all three categories is Carli Lloyd, a two-time world and Olympic champion and just the third player in U.S. history to earn more than 300 international caps.
“Obviously my goal is to help the team win gold,” said Lloyd, a two-time world player of the year and the only person to score the game-winning goal in two Olympic finals. “I’ve never felt this fit in my career. I’ve never felt this explosive. My game has evolved over the years and I’ve become smarter tactically as well.”
Soccer-wise, Carli Lloyd did not have a happy 2020. However, the year turned out to be one of her best once she reunited with her family from which she was estranged.
The Olympic selection is the fourth for Lloyd, who will turn 39 a week before the U.S. kicks off in Tokyo, making her the oldest soccer Olympian in U.S. history. Tobin Heath will be playing in a fourth Olympic tournament as well although her selection was in doubt because of ankle and knee injuries that have kept her off the national team since November.
Andonovski also chose holding midfielder Julie Ertz, a world and Olympic champion who sustained an MCL strain in her right knee last month. Perhaps the biggest surprise was midfielder Kristie Mewis, the older sister of World Cup winner Samantha Mewis, who got the final roster spot over speedy forward Lynn Williams. Kristie Mewis is the only player on the roster who was not on the 2019 Women’s World Cup team.
With Ertz questionable and the U.S. facing a schedule that will see it play six times in 17 days if it reaches the final, Andonovski took midfield depth over an extra attacker. The 18 players Andonovski selected average 30.8 years of age and 111 international caps. Five players are from California (Tierna Davidson, Abby Dahlkemper, Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe)
The U.S. will begin group play at Tokyo Stadium on July 21, two days before the opening ceremony, when they face Sweden, the team that knocked the Americans out of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in the quarterfinals. That marked the only Olympic tournament in which the U.S., a four-time champion, did not reach the final.
U.S. soccer star Alex Morgan is preparing for the SheBelieves Cup, after a year in which she contracted COVID-19 and also had her first child.
The U.S. will also play New Zealand and Australia in the group stage.
The team is 20-0-1 in 21 games under Andonovski and unbeaten in its last 42 games (38-0-4) overall, which includes a perfect run through the 2019 Women’s World Cup under Jill Ellis. But Andonovski, a successful NWSL manager who took over the national team in the fall of 2019, has never played or coached in a major international championship.
Press says the roster Andonovski chose has enough experience to make up for that.
“Our system is a well-oiled machine. And there’s a culture of winning,” she said. “Because we have that history and culture, we have such experienced players. And we also have the past to look at, and to study and Vlatko’s definitely a student and a learner.
“That’s what continues to give us the edge.”
They ran roughshod over the best field in history, winning seven times in seven tries.
The U.S. will take four alternates to Tokyo: Williams, goalkeeper Jane Campbell, defender Casey Krueger and midfielder Catarina Macario. None of the four has made a world championship roster at the senior level. During the Olympics, teams can make a roster change because of injury at any time.
The U.S. will play Mexico in East Hartford, Conn., in a pair of send-off games July 1 and July 5 before leaving for Japan.
Adrianna Franch, 30, Portland Thorns
A two-time NWSL keeper of the year, Franch made the 2019 Women’s World Cup team. She has two clean sheets in five international appearances.
Alyssa Naeher, 33, Chicago Red Stars
A two-time Women’s World Cup champion, Naeher has allowed one goal in her last 10 national team appearances Forty-two of her 58 career wins have come by shutout, leaving her third on the career list in both categories. She has lost just three of her 68 career starts.
Abby Dahlkemper, 28, Manchester City
A member of UCLA’s national championship team in 2013, she was the only American to start all seven games in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. She was off the field for just eight minutes of the World Cup tournament in France. She is three-time NWSL Best XI selection.
Tierna Davidson, 22, Chicago Red Stars
At 20, she was the youngest member of the 2019 Women’s World Cup team, a national champion at Stanford, as a versatile defender can play as a holding midfielder, at center back and on a wing. She was the first player since Julie Foudy in 1994 to play the full 90 minutes in her first five senior caps. Her grandmother captained the Republic of Ireland field hockey team from 1955-57.
Crystal Dunn, 28, Portland Thorns
She started six games in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and won the Hermann Trophy and an NCAA title at North Carolina, where she was named both conference offensive and defensive player of the year. A two-time NWSL champion, she won the league’s Golden Boot and MVP awards in 2015.
Kelley O’Hara, 32, Washington Spirit
A two-time Women’s World Cup champion she also won an Olympic title in 2012. She is one of nine players on the team with more than 100 international caps, and won the Hermann Trophy at Stanford.
Becky Sauerbrunn, 36, Portland Thorns
The team captain, Sauerbrunn is a two-time world champion and an Olympic gold medalist. Her 186 international caps trails only Carli Lloyd among active players. Only Kate Markgraft, the current USWNT general manager who scored in her 193rd game, played more games for the national team without scoring a goal than Sauerbrunn. A four-time NWSL defender of the year and a seven-time Best XI selection.
Emily Sonnett, 27, Washington Spirit
Made her national team debut in 2015 and appeared in one game in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, was an alternate for the U.S. in the 2016 Olympics, and can play on the back line or in the midfield. In addition to the NWSL, she has played professionally in Sweden and Australia.
Julie Ertz, 29, Chicago Red Stars
A hard-nosed defensive midfielder, Ertz is arguably the most indispensable player on the U.S. roster. She is recovering from an MCL injury that kept her out of the last training camp. A two-time world champion and a two-time U.S. Female Player of the Year she has the most caps of any midfielder on the roster.
Lindsey Horan, 27, Portland Thorns
She had two goals and two assists in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, is a former NWSL champion and MVP, tied Christen Press with a U.S.-best seven goals in 2020, and scored 46 times in four seasons with Paris Saint-Germain.
Rose Lavelle, 26, OL Reign
She won the Bronze Ball as the third-best player in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where she scored three times in six starts. She scored her first international goal in her third start for the U.S. As a third-grader in Ohio, Lavelle dressed up as Mia Hamm to present a book report about the two-time World Cup winner. Her selection to her first Olympic team was briefly in doubt after she rolled an ankle earlier this month. She scored the last goal in the 2019 Women’s World Cup final.
Kristie Mewis, 30, Houston Dash
The only player on the team who is making her first appearance on a Women’s World Cup or Olympic roster, she made her national team debut in 2013, played five games in 2014 then waited six years for another call-up. She has a career-high two goals and an assist this season. Mewis was the third pick in the inaugural NWSL draft when she was selected by then-Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski, now manager of the national team.
Sam Mewis, 28, North Carolina Courage
An NCAA champion at UCLA, she had two goals and tied for the team high with three assists in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. She won two NWSL titles with the North Carolina Courage and a Women’s FA Cup with Manchester City. … Sam is the younger sister of Kristie Mewis, marking the first time sisters have represented the U.S. on a world champion roster on the senior level. They were also teammates on the U-17 World Cup team in 2008.
Tobin Heath, 33, Manchester United
A two-time World Cup and Olympic champion, she hasn’t played for the national team since November after injuring an ankle, then a knee while with Manchester United. She will be appearing in her fourth Olympics, matching Christie Pearce Rampone’s record. She has played in 16 Women’s World Cup games without a loss.
Carli Lloyd, 38, Gotham FC
A two-time world and Olympic champion, Lloyd is one of the most decorated players of all time, is the only player, male or female, to score the game-winning goal in two Olympic finals, is a two-time world player of the year, and will match Heath and Rampone with four Olympic appearances in Tokyo. If the U.S. strike gold again, she and Heath will become the only players to win two World Cup and three Olympic titles. She needs one goal to tie Abby Wambach’s Olympic record of nine in Olympic play. She is ranked third all-time among Americans with 304 caps and 125 goals. Lloyd, who turns 39 on July 16, is the oldest U.S. soccer Olympian and has a team-high 16 appearances in the Olympics.
Alex Morgan, 31, Orlando Pride
A two-time finalist for world player of the year and a two-time Women’s World Cup Champion and an Olympic gold medalist. Her six goals and three assists tied for the scoring lead at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. She scored what proved to be the winning goal in the semifinal victory over England in the 2019 World Cup, and leads the NWSL with four goals in six games. Her 110 international goals trail only Lloyd among active U.S. players and ranks fifth all-time. Her game-winning goal 122 minutes and 22 seconds into the 2012 semifinal with Canada is the latest goal in Olympic history. She spent much of 2020 on maternity leave.
Megan Rapinoe, 35, OL Reign
The 2019 world player of the year and Ballon d’Or winner, she won the Golden Boot (top scorer) and Golden Ball (top player) at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. A two-time Women’s World Cup champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist, she has a team-best seven goals in nine games this year.
Christen Press, 32, Manchester United
Ninth on the all-time U.S. scoring list with 61 career goals, Press has 14 goals and 21 assists in last 35 games. A two-time Women’s World Cup champion she was an alternate on the 2012 Olympic team that won gold in London. She won the Hermann Trophy at Stanford in 2010, when she led the nations in goals and assists. She also had a 3.61 college GPA, and carried Palos Verdes Estates’ Chadwick High to two Southern Section titles.