At Cincinnati Soccer Talk, we look to provide our readers with some of the best commentary surrounding important soccer matches in our city. We teamed up with Stephanie Yang (@Thrace), co-manager of SB Nation site Stars and Stripes FC (@StarsStripesFC) to provide answers to some of our questions surrounding Tuesday’s US Women’s National Team friendly vs. New Zealand. Check out www.StarsAndStripesFC.com for more stories from Stephanie and Breaking News on the US Women’s National Team!
Q: You have covered NWSL and the Boston Breakers for StarsAndStripesFC.com. Can you tell us how the league has helped in providing opportunities for professional women’s players and how many new players have been recently included in the US Women’s National Team?
A: NWSL has been fairly important in providing a platform for women’s soccer in the United States – not just at the professional level, but at every level, as it gives those in lower leagues and in college something to aspire to and also is increasing the discussion around the quality of American professional refereeing and the educational opportunities available to female coaches at a high level.
There are several players who have had the chance to either prove themselves in NWSL or have been able to mature with their pro teams who are now on the WNT. Crystal Dunn is probably the most prominent answer, as she was left off the World Cup roster but then had such a remarkable season for the Washington Spirit it was impossible to ignore her for future rosters. More recently North Carolina’s Taylor Smith and Chicago’s Casey Short are two fullbacks who have really made their bread and butter in the league and are now looking like very solid starting options for the national team. Overall for these New Zealand games, I’d say there are a good five players who helped make a case for themselves in the league, while several others have now developed critical working partnerships thanks to consistent club play.
Q: How important will Cincinnati-native Rose Lavelle be in the next World Cup Cycle for the US?
A: Assuming she stays healthy, I think she’ll be a key midfield piece. Some of it also depends on where Jill Ellis decides to play her and if Ellis consistently plays here there, since Lavelle can switch from center to wing and for Boston has even played in a deeper DM role. In terms of being a playmaker, I don’t think the WNT has another player quite like her, in her ability to pressure defenses by quickly eating up space, then open them up with her read of the developing play.
Q: Do veterans such as Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan etc. still, have a lock on their starting roles or are their youngsters such as Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle pushing into the preferred lineup?
A: Alex Morgan is in some of the best form of her life right now with Orlando, as is Megan Rapinoe at Seattle. So those two are certainly still in the conversation in a big way. Carli Lloyd, I think we’re seeing now that she and Ellis are wanting to manage her minutes as age starts to catch up to her a little. Lloyd has really seemed indefatigable for so long that it’s a bit odd now to see her on the bench, but she is 35. I think Pugh and Lavelle are definitely going to cement their integration into the senior WNT over the next year; Pugh in particular I think is about 80 or 90% of the way there already.
Q: What player are you most excited to see in the upcoming matches?
A: For me, it’s Rose Lavelle, mostly due to her recent return from injury after being out for months following the WNT’s game against Norway. This was supposed to be a very exciting rookie season for her and with the injury interrupting that, I really want to see her get back in the groove, especially in her hometown. But I would also like her to return to Boston with two healthy hamstrings. That would be great.
Q: What has your perception of what is going on in Cincinnati been? How important is getting a USWNT match in the landscape of American soccer?
A: I’ve casually been keeping an eye on FC Cincinnati, especially with their big Open Cup win over Chicago, and I think what they’re building is really great. In terms of women’s soccer, if Cincinnati wanted to make a case for themselves as an expansion location for NWSL, I think they have a good starting point, especially if the game against New Zealand gets a good number.
Check out Stephanie’s work at StarsAndStripesFC.com including her recap of Friday night’s 3-1 win over New Zealand.