Woulda, coulda, shoulda: Here's who didn't make the U.S. women's World Cup roster
In the days before Jill Ellis announced the U.S. women's national team roster for this summer's World Cup, we kicked around names of players on the bubble to make the cut. We also pondered some current and former prospects who haven't made it to the big stage with the senior squad yet.
As you saw in Wednesday's story on Carli Lloyd, one of the few significant criticisms of Ellis' 23-player squad is its lack of youth. Not that the established players are bad, but few players have been given a chance to the national team as a reward for strong performances in the National Women's Soccer League. And then there are those who turned pro with high expectations, but never quite met them in reality.
One player from the latter category might be Sinead Farrelly. The Havertown native was drafted by the Philadelphia Independence in the Women's Professional Soccer era with the No. 2 overall selection in 2011, and now plays for the National Women's Soccer League's Portland Thorns.
When the Independence picked Farrelly, coach Paul Riley - who now manages the Thorns and has Farrelly on his roster - said she was "one of those players who can get to the full national team and maybe make it to the Olympics next year."
In April of 2011, Riley told the Inquirer's Marc Narducci: "I would be shocked if she didn't play on the full national team in the next year and a half."
That wasn't just hype from an optimistic coach. Farrelly went on to play 14 games as a rookie, helping the Independence reach the WPS title game. But she never fulfilled Riley's promise, in part because WPS folded after the 2011 season.
After a stint playing in Cyprus, Farrelly returned home to play for FC Kansas City in the NWSL's inaugural campaign - after Riley recommended they sign her.
"I think she is the best box-to-box midfielder in the country," Riley told the Inquirer's Kate Harman ahead of the 2013 season. "She is the new Shannon Boxx for me."
Chew on that for a moment. Boxx, at age 37, is headed to the World Cup - and by the way, she didn't play for the national team at all between April 5, 2013 and this year's Algarve Cup. Farrelly, at 25, is no closer to the top of the depth chart than she was when she first broke through as a pro.
(Though there were some sighs of relief that Ellis finally acknowledged the need for a pure defensive midfielder on the World Cup team.)
At least Farrelly and her fans can take consolation from knowing that she's not alone. Indeed, she's not close to alone. Here are more players who could, should or would be going to Canada this summer, but never really had a chance to break through.
Adrianna Franch (Goalkeeper, Avaldsnes IL/Norway): Not too long ago, Franch could have challenged for one of the three goalkeeper spots on the World Cup squad. Playing for the New York Flash in 2013, the 24-year-old finished second in the NWSL's Rookie of the Year vote behind Erika Tymrak. Franch suffered an ACL tear during the Flash's 2014 preseason, and is currently playing in Europe after negotiations with Western New York broke down earlier this year.
Crystal Dunn (Defender, Washington Spirit): She was likely the 24th player on the 23-player World Cup roster. The 22-year-old already has 13 national team caps, and seemed destined to become a regular call-up even under Ellis.
But even though the top pick in last year's NWSL draft is versatile enough to play almost anywhere on the field, she won't be going to Canada this summer. Ellis could have used her as an outside back, as the Spirit do; or in midfield, as Anson Dorrance did when Dunn was at North Carolina.
Leigh Ann Robinson (Defender, FC Kansas City): The 28-year-old earned a national team call-up following a stellar 2013, but never made it back into camp. Robinson could have made an impact at left back, where the U.S. has struggled to find someone to fit for a number of years, and would have brought chemistry with teammate Becky Sauerbrunn.
Amber Brooks (Midfielder, Seattle Reign): Pegged as being a potential star central midfielder coming out of college in 2013, the 24-year-old chose to sign with German powerhouse Bayern Munich instead of playing in the NWSL.
Tom Sermanni, Ellis' predecessor, gave Brooks her first cap in 2013, but Ellis hasn't brought Brooks back. In the conversation about potential alternatives to Boxx, Brooks is near the top of the list, along with Buczkowski and Edwards.
Jen Buczkowski (Midfielder, FC Kansas City): The former Philadelphia Independence stalwart paired with Canadian national team anchor Desiree Scott to form one of the stingiest defensive midfield pairings during the 2013 season. Scott left for Europe before the 2014 season, but Buczkowski still had a strong year in Kansas City. Having failed to crack the national team, the 30-year-old is now looking at retiring after this year.
Becky Edwards (Midfielder, Western New York Flash): The Downingtown native was on the verge of a call-up during the 2013 season, but tore her ACL in June of that year. She came back in 2014 and had a solid season for Houston, earning a national team call-up but not a cap.
That was the last time Edwards got that far with the national team. The 26-year-old is poised to be a midfield leader for Western New York this season. Maybe that will get attention heading into the 2016 Olympic cycle.
Christine Nairn (Midfielder, Washington Spirit): The former Penn State star won two caps in 2009, and scored a goal in the second of those appearances. But she hasn't gotten a sniff of the national team since. Ellis, Sermanni and even Pia Sundhage have all passed her over in the last five years.
After solid seasons with the Seattle Reign and Washington Spirit, some observers want the 24-year-old to get another chance.
Erika Tymrak (Midfielder, FC Kansas City): Tymrak took the NWSL by storm in 2013 after being drafted in the second round by FC Kansas City. She had a quieter 2014, but still has plenty of potential on the wing or centrally.
The 23-year-old Detroit native has formed a tremendous partnership with Lauren Holiday in Kansas City. That may have translated internationally, or it may have not. But with Tymrak having only earned one career cap - from Sermanni late in 2013 - we don't know the answer.
Sarah Hagen (Forward, FC Kansas City): Philadelphia soccer fans with long enough memories will remember when the Independence drafted Hagen's rights in 2012 even though she was under contract with Bayern Munich. Because WPS folded before that season began, she never got here.
Now 25, Hagen finally returned to the U.S. in June of 2014 to play for Kansas City. Sermanni capped her twice in 2014 before the move; Ellis called her up twice after succeeding Sermanni but never played her. She's good in the air and would be an effective force on set pieces.
Lindsay Horan (Forward, Paris Saint-Germain/France): She's perhaps the most intriguing of any young American prospect right now. When the 20-year-old Colorado native went straight to France out of high school in 2012, she turned a lot of heads - and she's still doing so. Horan has continued to buck the trend of Americans coming home, most notably by signing an extension with PSG late last summer.
Fair or not, that seems to be the biggest hindrance towards the 20-year-old making it into national team camps. Ellis told the New York Times' Sam Borden last October that Horan's decision to stay in Paris would be "challenging" for the national team.
"I said to her: 'Look, we're preparing for the biggest tournament, and I'm going to need you all the time," Ellis told the Times. "I'll be honest: She re-signed with PSG, and we hadn't had a conversation about it."
You can read plenty into Ellis' remarks - and you can read plenty into Horan having scored 46 goals for Paris in 63 games across all competitions since 2012.
Ali Krieger and Christen Press became national team regulars while playing club soccer in Europe. Both are now playing in the NWSL, but they nonetheless proved it's possible. Horan remains on the outside looking in.