Update: The three cuts referred to below were made on Feb. 26: Jane Campbell, Jordan DiBiasi and Margaret Purce.
Mallory Pugh and Tierna Davidson will return to the U.S. women’s soccer team this month, as coach Vlatko Andonovski summoned 26 players to a training camp ahead of the SheBelieves Cup in March.
Twenty of the 23 players from last year’s World Cup-winning squad will be in the camp, including Julie Ertz and Carli Lloyd. But this time, Davidson and Pugh are the headliners.
Davidson has been hobbled since last autumn by an ankle injury suffered at the end of the NWSL season. Pugh was the biggest omission from last month’s 20-player roster for Concacaf’s Olympic qualifying tournament.
Their returns signal that they remain in contention to make the 18-player roster for this summer’s Olympics, a team for which Andonovski faces some nearly impossible choices. His ability to take four alternates to Tokyo as injury backups is scant consolation.
The three missing World Cup winners are Alex Morgan, Allie Long and Morgan Brian. Morgan, as fans know well, is preparing to welcome her first child in April. Long and Brian’s absences were coach’s decisions, a sign that they’ve fallen down the depth chart.
Four players not on the World Cup team will be in this camp: goalkeeper Jane Campbell, veteran left back Casey Short, utility player Margaret Purce and young midfield prospect Jordan DiBiasi.
Campbell’s inclusion is a sign that she still has the No. 4 spot on the goalkeeping depth chart, ahead of contenders including Reign FC’s Casey Murphy, a Rutgers product.
Andonovski will trim the 26-player squad to 23 ahead of the start of the tournament, which this year features the U.S., England, Japan and newcomer Spain. One of the cuts presumably will be a goalkeeper.
The training camp will be held in Orlando, the tournament’s first venue, for a little more than a week before the opening games March 5.
If you’d like to make the trip north that day and haven’t bought tickets yet, good luck. Only a few hundred remain at the 25,000-seat venue. The get-in price on the secondary market is around $170 (including fees) for the top of the upper deck. Tickets in the lower deck are going for more than $300.
Assuming those tickets are taken, it will be the fifth straight time over the last six years that the U.S. women have sold out the building. The northeast United States has proven itself to be a bastion of support for the team, including the record-setting crowd of 49,504 at Lincoln Financial Field last August.
Red Bull Arena will host a lot of women’s soccer this year, as the NWSL’s Sky Blue FC moves there after a decade (over two leagues) at Rutgers’ Yurcak Field. Sky Blue played two games in Harrison last year, and the crowds were big enough that it made financial sense to move to the bigger — and obviously better — soccer venue.
The NWSL season will start April 18, but beyond that, there’s much uncertainty about how the year will unfold. The league has yet to announce its full schedule, or to confirm a widely reported broadcast deal with CBS.
Goalkeepers (4): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
Defenders (9): Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride)
Midfielders (6): Jordan DiBiasi (Washington Spirit), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), 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), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Mallory Pugh (Sky Blue FC), Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage)
At Exploria Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
4:15 p.m.: Spain vs. Japan (ESPN3)
7 p.m.: United States vs. England (ESPN2, TUDN)
At Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.
2:15 p.m.: Japan vs. England (ESPN3)
5 p.m.: United States vs. Spain (ESPN, TUDN)
The U.S. game will include a ceremy honoring Crystal Dunn for her 100th cap, which she earned during Olympic qualifying.
At Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
5:15 p.m.: England vs. Span (ESPN3)