On Friday four Sky Blue FC players were tapped to represent their country in two international tournaments.
Defender Kelley O’Hara was named to the United States women’s national team (USWNT) SheBelieves Cup roster by head coach Jill Ellis. O’Hara’s inclusion on the roster comes as no surprise as the versatile player has been a staple on the team since earning her first cap in 2010 and has since made 91 appearances.
Although O’Hara was played primarily as an outside back in 2016 for both club and country, Ellis has changed tactics to employ a three-back defense, pushing O’Hara back into the attack. As Ellis continues evaluating newer, younger players in international competition, the Georgia native has seen fewer minutes on the field, but Ellis may depend on O’Hara’s speed on the wing against the likes of England, France and Germany, the U.S.’s three opponents for the tournament.
O’Hara was one of two Sky Blue players called into the U.S.’s 25-player training camp to prepare for the tournament, but midfielder Sarah Killion cut from the roster ahead of the tournament. Killion impressed Ellis enough in the team’s January training camp to earn her second call-up of 2017, but Ellis suggested that Killion’s game was not quite up to the level of international competition just yet.
“What I said to Sarah was that I was specifically looking at players that play her position, and digging a little deeper into that process meant taking another look at her,” Ellis said in an interview with U.S. Soccer. “She is definitely someone we will continue to monitor. Sharpening up her speed of play is going to be a focus for her, but for sure, being in this environment has helped her understand the demands and pace of the international level.”
The SheBelieves Cup begins on Wednesday, March 1 at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa. with England and France competing before the USWNT and Germany take the field. The tournament then comes to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. on Saturday, March 4. There France and Germany will play before the U.S. and England compete. Former USWNT captain and current Sky Blue FC defender Christie Rampone will be honored before the USWNT’s match. The tournament concludes on Tuesday, March 7 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., where Germany takes on England and the USWNT facing France. The winners of the tournament will be crowned following the second match of the doubleheader.
In addition to O’Hara being named to the SheBelieves Cup roster, three of her teammates were named to the U.S. U-23 women’s national team. Mandy Freeman, Kayla Mills and Erica Skroski were three of 16 NWSL players who made the 22-player roster for the La Manga tournament. The team travels to Spain from February 25-March 7 to play three matches against their counterparts from Japan (March 2), England (March 4) and Norway (March 7). The U-23 team will be coached by Laura Harvey, currently the head coach of the Seattle Reign.
The trio was previously called into the team’s January camp, with Freeman impressing USWNT head coach Jill Ellis enough to be held over into camp with the senior national team for a few days. All three were also included on the team’s roster for the 2016 Istria Cup in Croatia, helping the team win the tournament after two wins and a draw.
Following the La Manga tournament, the U-23 team will be one of four teams to compete in the Thorns Spring Invitational preseason tournament in Portland, Ore. There they will take on the Portland Thorns, Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars in a round-robin tournament consisting of three doubleheaders.
USWNT SheBelieves Cup Roster by Position
Goalkeepers (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
Defenders (7): Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
Midfielders (9): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Brianna Pinto (CASL)
Forwards (6): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea Ladies FC), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Coursge), Alex Morgan (Olympique Lyonnais), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (UCLA), Lynn Williams (NC Courage)
U.S. U-23 WNT La Manga Tournament Roster by Position
GOALKEEPERS (2): Casey Murphy (Rutgers), Madalyn Schiffel (Seattle Reign)
DEFENDERS (7): Mandy Freeman (Sky Blue FC), Adrienne Jordan (IBV), Kristen McNabb (Seattle Reign), Kayla Mills (Sky Blue FC), Katie Naughton (Chicago Red Stars), Erica Skroski (Sky Blue FC), Samantha Witteman (NC Courage; Redondo Beach, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Morgan Andrews (Boston Breakers), Tierna Davidson (Stanford), Christina Gibbons (FC Kansas City), Tyler Lussi (Portland Thorns), Emily Ogle (Penn State), Margaret Purce (Boston Breakers), Ashley Sanchez (SoCal Blues), Dani Weatherholt (Orlando Pride)
FORWARDS (5): Celeste Boureille (Portland Thorns), Makenzy Doniak (NC Courage), Ashley Hatch (NC Courage), Savannah McCaskill (South Carolina), Arielle Ship (Washington Spirit)