USWNT coach Jill Ellis announced the 24-member team roster for upcoming friendly matches between the USWNT and Switzerland and some significant changes are raising eyebrows of U.S. soccer fans. While fans were expecting the exclusion of Hope Solo due to her suspension and subsequent contract termination following the goalkeeper’s negative comments after the USWNT loss to Sweden in the Olympics, some of the USWNT’s most notable players are absent from Ellis’ latest roster.
Forwards Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, and defenders Megan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, and Julie Johnston have all been left off the USWNT roster for the upcoming exhibition matches, according to U.S. Soccer. While some wondered if the exclusion of Rapinoe has to do with her recent kneeling protest of the national anthem during a USWNT game, or the wage discrimination lawsuit filed by several USWNT members, the reason for the exclusion of some of the soccer team’s key World Cup members is actually much less sordid.
According to USWNT coach Jill Ellis, with so many players retiring, aging, and having babies, she is simply using the exhibition matches as an opportunity to evaluate new, younger players to fill the void left by veterans.
“Right now, we are in a phase where we want to try to expand the player pool, look at a number of players and start the long process to qualifying for the next World Cup,” Ellis said, according to the U.S. Soccer press release regarding the new USWNT roster. “That means several of our more experienced players won’t be in for this camp while we get to evaluate some different personnel.”
In other words, Ellis is familiar with what Rapinoe, Morgan, Johnston, and Klingenberg are capable of and she wants to use this time to evaluate new players. While the USWNT showed off some great new talent in the Rio Olympics, the fact that they were eliminated before making it to the medal round was not lost on anyone. Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx, Lauren Holiday, Lori Chalupny, all members of the USWNT squad that brought home the World Cup had retired. Sydney LeRoux and Amy Rodriguez were both on maternity leave. The loss to Sweden showed some clear holes in the USWNT’s game and Ellis’ focus on the USWNT bringing home a second World Cup in 2019 is understandable.
Still, the surprise roster changes left some fans feeling as though they’ve been duped when it came to buying tickets for the exhibition matches or tuning in to watch the games on television. Several USWNT fans took to social media to voice their disdain.
Morgan, Rapinoe, Krieger, Johnston, Klingenberg and Pugh removed from USWNT roster for friendlies. Definitely no reason to watch them now
— Dave DeFonce (@dd43) October 6, 2016
i’m upset about this roster tbh. i literally don’t understand.
— USWNT.FAN_ (@uswnt_fan1105) October 6, 2016
I think the biggest issue people seem to have with this roster is that they got tickets to see certain players & they won’t be there. #USWNT
— From Lack On (@philpurple) October 6, 2016
While USWNT fans who have been waiting to see their favorite players compete in person are undoubtedly upset about the change up, the movement is necessary for growth within the USWNT. Old school USWNT fans will remember the devastation when fan favorite and World Cup champion Shannon MacMillan was left off the roster in the early 2000s. While Jill Ellis may be trying to ease everyone’s mind by announcing she is simply evaluating other players rather than slighting veterans of the USWNT, the reality is, no one’s position with the USWNT is safe.
Megan Rapinoe has not only come under scrutiny for her kneeling during the anthem while playing for the USWNT but is still recovering from an ACL tear. Alex Morgan also is frequently injured. The most puzzling exclusions from the USWNT roster are that of Johnston, Krieger, and Klingenberg, especially considering Ellis will be holding auditions for a new goalkeeper.
According to Yahoo Sports, the roster shake-up may spell success for a different component of women’s soccer, however–the National Women’s Soccer League. Though the NWSL has struggled financially as previous attempts at forming professional women’s soccer leagues, the NWSL has proven its worth by developing young talent for the USWNT and expanding the pool of players. Only time will tell if the veterans can live up to the competition.
So far, there has been no comment from the USWNT veterans regarding the roster changes.
[Featured Image by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images]