The wait is finally over.
With just 22 days left until the 2016 Olympic opening ceremonies, Jill Ellis, head coach of the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT), has named the 18 players that will be competing with the team in Rio.
Only seven of the players featured on the 2016 U.S. roster are Olympic veterans, two served as alternates at the 2012 Olympics and nine will be traveling to their first Summer Games.
The two goalkeepers on the roster are Hope Solo and Alyssa Naeher. Solo was a lock to make the roster, especially since she just made history by becoming the first player in the world, man or woman, to record her 100th international career shutout. Although Solo’s backup was one of the more heavily debated positions, Naeher is the only keeper other than Solo to see playing time for the USWNT since September 2015. Her most recent appearance for the USWNT was on April 10 in a 3-0 shutout over Colombia.
The six defenders who made the roster are Whitney Engen, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Kelley O’Hara and co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn. O’Hara and Sauerbrunn will both be making their second Olympic appearances with the USWNT after previously playing in the 2012 Olympics. O’Hara notably played every minute of that tournament, one of only three players to do so.
Ali Krieger and Meghan Klingenberg will be making their Olympic debuts this year. Krieger was sidelined from the 2012 Games after a tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during Olympic qualifiers, and Klingenberg traveled with the team as an alternate but was never activated.
The only defender who was in question was Engen as the third center back on the roster, but Ellis tapped her over Emily Sonnett, a move predicated by Engen subbing into three of the USWNT’s last five friendlies.
Most surprisingly to some fans is the inclusion of Megan Rapinoe to the Olympic roster. Rapinoe tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a noncontact injury back in December and has been working to get back to full health ever since. Although she has not played a match with her NWSL club team, Seattle Reign FC, or the USWNT since last October, Ellis evaluated her recovery progress during the team’s July camp and deemed her healthy enough to compete with the team in Rio. This will only be Rapinoe’s second Olympics since she missed the 2008 Beijing games with a torn ACL.
Co-captain Carli Lloyd, who also recently returned to the team after suffering a grade 1 MCL sprain in April, also made the roster, although her addition to the roster was not surprising to most fans. Lloyd’s injury was less severe than Rapinoe’s, and she played the entire second half of last weekend’s 1-0 win over South Africa.
There have only been four forwards called into every national team camp this year, making each of these four players a lock for Rio. The USWNT’s forwards are Crystal Dunn, Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Mallory Pugh. Morgan is the only forward who has previously competed in an Olympics for the USWNT, although Press was an alternate for the 2012 London games.
Crystal Dunn is almost as famous for being left off the 2015 Women’s World Cup roster as she is for her stellar 2015 NWSL season. Her 15 goals for the Washington Spirit earned her the league Most Valuable Player and the Golden Boot awards. That performance earned her a call back to the national team during it's post-World Cup Victory Tour, and she has been a permanent fixture in USWNT camp ever since. The Rio roster is Dunn’s first major tournament roster with the USWNT.
At just 18 years old, Mallory Pugh was named to her first major tournament roster with the senior national team. Having played on multiple youth national teams, Pugh was first called into USWNT camp back in January. She was first capped in the January 23 friendly against Ireland, during which she also scored her first international goal. Since then, she has been capped 12 times, scored 2 goals and currently is leading the team in assists for the year (7).
The team will also take four alternates—one goalkeeper and three field players—with it to Rio. These are Ashlyn Harris, Emily Sonnett, Samantha Mewis and Heather O’Reilly. The alternates will travel and train with the team, but will not compete (or receive any medal) unless they are called up to the full roster to replace an injured or severely ill rostered player.
2016 marks the first time in 16 years that a USWNT Olympic roster does not have Christie Rampone’s name on it. Rampone, who underwent knee surgery in December, was invited back to national team camp at the end of May but declined the invitation saying she was not yet back up to the level of health required to compete at the international level. By declining the invitation to camp, Rampone basically effectively and quietly retired from the national team.
Veteran winger Heather O’Reilly, who was first capped with the USWNT in 2002 when she was just 17 years old, was left off the 18-player roster. She has since been capped 226 times, seventh most in USWNT history, scored 46 goals and tallied 54 assists. The veteran only played nine minutes during the entire 2015 Women’s World Cup and was left off the 2016 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament roster in January. With O’Reilly’s omission from the official 18-player roster, it appears as though Rampone may not be the only veteran whose time with the national team is coming to an end.
The United States competes in Group G against Colombia, France and New Zealand. Their first match will be against New Zealand on Wednesday, August 3.
United States Women’s National Team Olympic Roster by Position
Goalkeepers (2): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
Defenders (6): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers)), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)
Midfielders (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
Forwards (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)
Alternates (4): Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
Head Coach: Jill Ellis