U.S. women's soccer team coach Jill Ellis made some surprising picks for her first roster since the Americans qualified for next year's World Cup.
The headline names on the 24-player squad that will go to Portugal and Scotland next month are forward Jessica McDonald and midfielder Danielle Colaprico. Neither woman had been called up in quite a while.
McDonald's last call-up was for the 2017 SheBelieves Cup. The MVP of this year's NWSL title game for the treble-winning North Carolina Courage, she had 13 goals and a league-leading eight assists this year. The Courage won a historic treble of trophies this year: the regular-season title, the playoff championship, and the International Champions Cup.
Colaprico has been out of the picture since October 2016. She has been a stalwart for some time with the Chicago Red Stars, but the sense has been that she didn't make the most of that last opportunity. She is a tempo-setter in the Red Stars midfield, playing alongside national team veterans Julie Ertz and Morgan Brian. Ellis is giving Brian this trip off after a long year that included a five-month stay at French powerhouse Lyon.
"Our core players have had a very demanding year. and the priority for that group was qualifying for the World Cup," Ellis said in a statement. "This trip will provide a window for several other quality players to get time with the main group."
Colaprico recently went on loan to Australian W-League club Sydney FC to get extra games during the NWSL offseason. The trip to Europe will put even more travel on her plate.
The U.S. will play Portugal in Estoril, near Lisbon, on Nov. 8 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN2); and Scotland in Paisley, outside Glasgow, on Nov. 13 (2 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1 and Univision Deportes).
Other notable inclusions on this roster are outside back Merritt Mathias (North Carolina Courage), veteran midfielder Allie Long (Seattle Reign), and 22-year-old midfielder Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit). Mathias won her first cap in June, and was on the Tournament of Nations team; Long missed World Cup qualifying and the September series against Chile; and Sullivan hasn't been with the national team since April.
The one new name is University of North Carolina outside back Emily Fox, who played for the U.S. at the last two under-20 World Cups.
The rest of the roster is familiar, headlined by the attacking trio of Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath. Alyssa Naeher continues as the No. 1 goalkeeper, and it will be interesting to see if backup Adrianna Franch finally gets her first national team cap.
In addition to Brian's absence, two U.S. regulars are out because of major injuries suffered in early September. Midfielder McCall Zerboni fractured her left elbow during the Courage's playoff run, and Stanford University centerback Tierna Davidson — a U.S. starter for much of this year — broke her left ankle. Earlier this week, right back Kelley O'Hara had surgery on her right ankle to clear up some lingering issues.
All three players should be back by the end of the year. When they return, and if everyone stays healthy, as many as 22 of the 23 spots on next year's World Cup team might already be spoken for. Colaprico, McDonald and a few other players might all be competing for the last ticket to France.
Goalkeepers (3): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
Defenders (7): Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Emily Fox (University of North Carolina), Merritt Mathias (North Carolina), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC; 24/0)
Midfielders (7): Danielle Colaprico (Chicago Red Stars), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Allie Long (Seattle Reign), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
Forwards (7): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)