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Women's World Cup

Meet the US women’s soccer team, which hopes meshing experience and youth is a winning combination

US women's national team coach Vlatko Andonovski (right) hopes 38-year-old forward Megan Rapinoe has enough left in the tank for one more run to a World Cup title.Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

The US women’s national team might be in transition, but coach Vlatko Andonovski is not expecting a dropoff as it seeks a third successive World Cup championship.

Key US players include veterans who have won everything but might have lost a step or two — the roster lists eight 30-year-old-plus players. There also are plenty of speedy youngsters but many are unproven — 14 are making their debut on the world stage.

World Cup success is often determined by a coach’s intuition and ability to put pieces in place for the team to improve as the tournament progresses. Andonovski went with his instincts in selecting 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson, slated to play an important role on the flanks. He is also pushing up the timetable on Trinity Rodman, 21, who could challenge Alex Morgan for a starting forward role.

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In central defense, 23-year-old Naomi Girma takes on a leadership role from injured veteran Becky Sauerbrunn. And Emily Fox, 24, should give Kelley O’Hara a run at right back.

Now, it is up to Andonovski to get the mix right, create a winning chemistry, and adjust tactics.

The US will play through Lindsey Horan, counting on her to hold the midfield together, as well as provide playmaking and scoring. Andonovski will have to find a way to free Horan to create, which means relying on supporting midfielders Ashley Sanchez and Andi Sullivan to link with the back line. If Horan is stationed in the US half, her attacking influence will be minimized.

In the US team’s final warm-up match, a 2-0 win over Wales, the offense bogged down, only to break out late thanks to some inspired individual play from young forwards Sophia Smith and Rodman. The United States will have to get into attacking mode quicker against tougher World Cup foes.

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GOALKEEPERS

Aubrey Kingsbury — Washington Spirit

The Spirit captain will be the No. 3 keeper. A two-time NWSL goalkeeper of the year (2019, ‘21), she was also W League goalkeeper of the year in 2019 for Sydney FC. Twin sister Amber Bledsoe was goalkeeper at Brown from 2010-13.

Casey Murphy — North Carolina Courage

Standing 6 feet 1 inch, Murphy is among the NWSL’s most imposing netminders. Went from Rutgers to Montpellier HSC and was named 2018 goalkeeper of the year in the French League. Blanked Australia, 3-0, in US debut in 2021 in Sydney, and was in goal as United States reached semifinals of 2016 U-20 World Cup in Papua New Guinea.

Alyssa Naeher — Chicago Red Stars

She’s a two-time World Cup champion. She was backup to Hope Solo in 2015, but the starter in 2019. Aggressive, athletic style developed under former US coach Tony DiCicco while growing up in Connecticut. In ‘19 tourney, only US player to play every minute of every game, and made a key penalty save on Beth Houghton in 2-1 win over England in semifinals. Blanked Argentina in 2014 US debut, earned regular starting role in 2017. Basketball and soccer star, along with twin sister Amanda, at Christian Heritage Academy in Connecticut.

DEFENDERS

Alana Cook — OL Reign

Provides composure and distribution in central defense. Born in Worcester, moved to New Jersey as an infant. Called up to England’s national team in 2019 (father, Bryan, is from Oxford) before switching to the United States internationally. Won 2017 NCAA title with Stanford, played three seasons with Paris Saint-Germain before moving to NWSL. Sister Brianna played softball at Amherst.

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Crystal Dunn — Portland Thorns

Converted from forward/winger to left back, provided shutdown defending for the US team in the ‘19 Cup triumph. She’s a threat going forward — leading NWSL in scoring with 15 goals in 20 games and was named league MVP with Washington Spirit in 2015.

Emily Fox — North Carolina Courage

US debut in 2018, sustained a knee injury, and did not return to international action until 2021. Going strong now — long-striding style allows her to cover ground on right wing, disrupt opposing attacks, transition into offense.

Naomi Girma — San Diego Wave

Potential successor to Becky Sauerbrunn at center back, Girma sparks back line via combination of anticipation, poise, and speed. Girma, 23, was named 2022 NWSL defender and rookie of the year in her first professional season. Grew up playing in Ethiopian league in San Jose, Calif.; starred at Stanford.

Sofia Huerta — OL Reign

Converted forward, now right back. Born in Boise, Idaho, played five times for Mexico under Leonardo Cuellar before switching to United States in 2017. Experience in Australia on loan to Adelaide United and Sydney FC.

Kelley O’Hara — Gotham FC

Fourth World Cup, started at right back in 2015 and ‘19. Striker at Stanford, moved into defense early in career, played for Boston Breakers in WPS in 2011. Attacking threat paid off with first international goal in ‘15 semifinal win over Germany (2-0), and cross for Christen Press in a 2-1 win over England in ‘19 semifinals.

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Emily Sonnett — OL Reign

Converted from midfield to back line at University of Virginia, established as a versatile defender, playing centrally or outside. Counted on as dependable defensive backup.

MIDFIELDERS

Savannah DeMelo — Racing Louisville

DeMelo made US debut against Wales in final Cup warm-up match. Potted four goals in three games for the US team in the 2018 U-20 World Cup in France. Expected to provide late-game relief, add physicality to midfield.

Julie Ertz — Angel City FC

Ups physical intensity, whether on back line or in midfield. Recovered from knee injury to compete in 2021 Olympics, and from childbirth to rejoin national team in April after 611-day absence. Played every minute of every game as central defender in 2015 tournament, and six games in midfield in 2019.

Lindsey Horan — Olympique Lyon (France)

Tactically savvy, defuses opposing threats, difficult to stop one on one. Team cocaptain, considered a “soccer junkie,” obsessed with following the game at all levels. An enterprising spirit, Horan became the first US women’s player to go pro after skipping both high school and collegiate soccer, signing with Paris Saint-Germain after competing for the Colorado Rush. Scored twice in ‘19 World Cup. Only foreign-based member of team, won 2022 Euro Champions League with Lyon.

Rose Lavelle — OL Reign

Adventurous attacker, breaks down defenses via runs through midfield. Confident on ball, finds teammates, effective finisher. Made US debut while playing for Boston Breakers in 2017. Bronze Ball winner in ‘19 tournament, after scoring goal in Cup final win over the Netherlands.

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Kristie Mewis — Gotham FC

Earned 15 caps early in career, then fell out of national team picture until recently, redefining herself as a holding midfielder. Andonovski, a Mewis backer since she was a goal-scoring star at Boston College, selected her for Kansas City in the 2013 NWSL draft. Also a left-foot threat on set pieces. Probable substitute when team needs possession while protecting lead. Sister Samantha starred in ‘19 tourney but misses out because of injury this time.

Ashley Sanchez — Washington Spirit

Disrupts opposing midfield play as holding midfielder, also adds attacking dimension. Gained senior call-up at 17 in 2016 but did not make debut until 2021. Raised in Southern California and played at UCLA, a starter with the Spirit since 2020.

Andi Sullivan — Washington Spirit

Driving midfield force, box to box. Defuses opposing attacks; can finish as well as set up plays. First US cap in 2016. Captain at Stanford, winning 2017 NCAA title. Captured 2021 NWSL title as Spirit captain.

FORWARDS

Alex Morgan — San Diego Wave

Going strong at 34, provides dependable back-to-goal holdup play as No. 9 forward. First cap in 2010, helped the US team win 2012 Olympic title in London. Recovered from injury sustained playing for Portland Thorns against Boston Breakers to start for the United States in 2015 World Cup. In ‘19 tourney, scored six goals (five in 13-0 rout of Thailand).

Megan Rapinoe — OL Reign

Delivers lethal crosses as left-side winger, plus effective finisher and set piece threat. Rapinoe is only player to score on Olimpico (directly from a corner kick) in Olympic Games (2012). She won both Golden Ball and Golden Boot (six goals) in ‘19. Now 38, Rapinoe made US debut in 2006, and might have played for ’07 World Cup team but sustained two ACL injuries at University of Portland.

Trinity Rodman — Washington Spirit

First cap as 19-year-old in February 2022. NWSL Best XI team as a rookie in helping Spirit win 2021 title, became league’s highest-paid player with a multiyear contract worth more than $1 million. Contributes athleticism, finishing ability, youthful enthusiasm, as well as tactical sense. Heir apparent to Morgan. Daughter of Basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman.

Sophia Smith — Portland Thorns

Textbook striker moves, instinctive finisher. NWSL MVP in 2022 at age 22; youngest to win the award. First US call-up as 16-year-old, did not make debut until 2020, replacing Tobin Heath in a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in rematch of ‘19 Cup final. Played for Real Colorado under Lorne Donaldson, now Jamaica coach. Captured 2019 NCAA title with Stanford.

Alyssa Thompson — Angel City FC

Team’s youngest player, made starting debut in April and has four caps. Standing 5-4, Thompson disrupts defenses by taking on defenders and penetrating into penalty area on left wing. Half the age of teammates, displayed enough promise to make squad ahead of veteran Ashley Hatch.

Lynn Williams — Gotham FC

Forward or left winger, covers ground in both halves, sometimes sacrificing offense to get involved defensively. Instant offense off bench, converted 49 seconds into US debut against Switzerland in 2016. Recovered from hamstring tear to rejoin team in January, and scored seven minutes into match at New Zealand.

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Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at frankdellapa@gmail.com.