There were no surprises on the U.S. women’s Olympic roster, named by coach Jill Ellis on Tuesday. The team includes 14 players from the 2015 Women’s World Cup championship team, and rising stars Crystal Dunn — the National Women’s Soccer League MVP — and teen phenom Mallory Pugh, who turned 18 in April.
“Building for the future certainly came into play,” Ellis, a Palmetto Bay resident, said of her roster selections. “If I was going to bring new people in, they’d have a shot at a 2019 (World Cup) roster. And then if it was returning players, it was, `Do I see them having a shot at the 2019 roster?’ This is such a massive event, and a great experience for the new players.”
The Americans are seeking a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal, and attempting to become the first women’s team to win the World Cup and Olympic back-to-back.
One of the only questions heading into Rio is the fitness of midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who has not played since tearing an ACL last fall. She joined camp last week and performed well enough to keep her spot.
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Other veterans on the squad include goalkeeper Hope Solo, midfielder Carli Lloyd, forward Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara, and Tobin Heath. Defender Ali Krieger made the team after missing the 2012 Olympics in London with a knee injury. World Cup forwards Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez are pregnant and not playing. Abby Wambach, the all-time scoring leader, is one of four players who retired after the World Cup.
“The last few camps capped a nine-month evaluation process and the players certainly made it a real challenge to narrow the roster down to 18,” Ellis said. “We’ve got a great blend of players with experience at the Olympic Games and in major events along with the youthful energy of some players who did not play in the Women’s World Cup last summer. As a coach in the Olympic Games, you want to put together a group capable of reaching the top of the podium while also being mindful of getting players prepared for the next World Cup, and I think we’ve done that.”
Team USA is in Group G with France, Colombia and New Zealand. Their first two matches are in Belo Horizonte, and they face Colombia in Manaus, the Amazon city where the U.S. men’s team played Portugal in the 2014 World Cup.