Colorado trio makes USWNT SheBelieves Cup roster The Denver Post

When Vlatko Andonovski put out the roster for the 2022 SheBelieves Cup, he sent a message that it will be a significant evaluation period for young, highly competitive players.

With an aging veteran core, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to test out with less than 18 months left before the 2023 World Cup, especially given how much promise is in the pipeline, particularly from the Centennial State.

Three Coloradans were named to the initial 23-woman USWNT roster last week, and there will still be three, after another Colorado product replaced Golden native Lindsay Horan. Sophia Smith (Windsor) and Mallory Pugh (Littleton) were named to the initial roster, and the No. 2 overall pick in the NWSL Draft, Jaelin Howell (Lone Tree), was named as a replacement for Horan, who initially made the cut but was ruled out Friday due to knee irritation.

The SheBelieves Cup begins Thursday with the USWNT a heavy favorite. The U.S. opens the four-team tournament against Czech Republic (9 p.m., ESPN), No. 24 in the FIFA rankings, on Sunday, followed by a match with 22nd-ranked New Zealand (1 p.m., ABC) on Sunday, and a game vs. 16th-ranked Iceland (7 p.m., ESPN) on Feb. 23. The first two games will be played at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., with the tournament concluding at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Several veterans like Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Julie Ertz and Christen Press have not been involved in the oft-intense USWNT camps since the Tokyo Summer Olympics due to injuries or a lack of minutes at the club level. The last two camps have been mostly younger players looking to stake a claim for the future.

“It doesn’t mean these players haven’t done well in the past,” Andonovski said last week. “They’re not just going to come back in next game because they’ve done well a year ago or two years ago. So I mean, there’s a reason why Mia Hamm is not in camp still. We’re not calling Julie Foudy into camp, right? The same goes here. (The veteran players) need to perform. They need to play in their markets. They need to play well in their markets and show that they can still contribute and be valuable for the national team.”

Smith, still just 21 years old, is certainly one player to keep an eye on. She scored seven goals in 22 games last year in her first full season with the Portland Thorns.

Other up-and-comers include Trinity Rodman, who recently signed an historic four-year, $1.1-million deal with the Washington Spirit, Ashley Hatch, and Pugh, who revived her club career when she joined the Chicago Red Stars last year, and has earned 67 caps to date.

Howell, 22, brings a fresh face to the midfield and made the tournament roster for the second year in a row, and will be paired up with Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario and Kristie Mewis.

Defensively, there will be a few key veterans, such as Becky Sauerbrunn, Emily Sonnett and Kelley O’Hara. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher returns to USWNT action for the first time since she sustained an injury last summer in Tokyo.

“Every player in the pool is focused on making the roster for World Cup and Olympic qualifying this summer, and every training session and especially every match is a means to that end for them and for the coaching staff,” Andonovski said.

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