February 3, 2013 (Jacksonville, FL)-With the London Olympics in the rear view mirror the U.S. Women’s national soccer team looks to build upon their gold medal performance from last summer as they kick off their first training camp of the new year.
It will also be the first opportunity for newly installed coach Tom Sermanni to work with the national team since taking over the reigns from Pia Sundhage who left after five years and a 91-6-10 record.
Sermanni will have a week with the 29 players that have been called into training camp before the first two matches of 2013 will take place against Scotland on February 9 and 13. Most of the faces in Jacksonville are familiar to fans of women’s soccer though Sermanni has pulled in some younger blood for evaluation. Sermanni plans to dress 18 players for both matches.
“I’m excited to get out on the field and work with the team for the first time,” Sermanni said in a recent interview with U.S. Soccer. “For this particular part of the cycle, it’s important to look at the established players in the squad but also the up-and-coming players and the ones who we think have the potential to really fight for positions on the team. For me, this period is really about observation and evaluation of some players who I know very well, some I’ve seen play only a bit and some who I will be seeing in a competitive environment for the first time.”
A look at the players called into camp:
Goalkeepers: Hope Solo, Jill Loyden, Nicole Barnhart, Ashlyn Harris, Jane Campbell
Both Harris and Campbell have never played in a match for the national team though Harris has spent time training as a reserve keeper. Campbell, only 17 years of age had a stellar 2012 playing for the Under-17 team and is still in high school. She is the youngest goalkeeper to get an invite to train with the national squad. It is doubtful however that anyone at this point will unseat Solo from her starting spot barring injury.
Defenders: Rachel Buehler, Crystal Dunn, Whitney Engen, Julie Johnston, Ali Krieger, Heather Mitts, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn.
One of the names that should provide some encouragement to the back line is the return of Krieger. Lost for the 2012 season due to a torn ACL last January during Olympic qualifying, she should be welcomed back with some excitement. The defense struggled at times against top tier teams and it will be interesting to see what changes Sermanni looks to make. Missing from the list is Amy LePeilbet who will be out for 6-9 months after her own recent ACL surgery. And back for more is captain Rampone and Mitts who both flirted with the idea of retirement last fall.
Midfielders: Yael Averbuch, Shannon Boxx, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath, Lori Lindsey, Carli Lloyd, Kristie Mewis, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, Keelin Winters.
Heath and Rapinoe have made news in recent weeks as they both signed with two French clubs (Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais) and are currently overseas playing with their respective teams. They will be a part of some of the camp and should be available for both matches against Scotland. Mewis, the third pick in the NWSL draft has spent time training with the national team before though has yet to play in a game. That may change this year, though Sermanni finds himself with plenty of mids to choose from on this roster.
Forwards: Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Christen Press, Zakiya Bywaters.
Bywaters was a late addition to the training camp after news came out that Amy Rodriguez would be taking time away from the team due to pregnancy. Bywaters however is the first pick of the NWSL draft and the 2012 Pac-Player of the Year. The forward line is stocked with goal scorers and it will be interesting to see if Sermanni chooses to disrupt the Wambach/Morgan tandem that produced 55 goals last year. Though Leroux has made quite a case for playing time as she came off the bench and produced 14 goals for the national team last year including five in one half alone.
The first match of the year will be on Feb. 9 in Jacksonville, FL at 5pm ET. The second on Feb. 13 in Nashville, TN at 8pm ET and both can be viewed online at ussoccer.com.