Rising stars up the energy as US chase third straight World Cup title

rising stars up the energy as us chase third straight world cup title

The United States believe that young talent combined with the savvy of veterans such as Megan Rapinoe will make a lethal combination as they seek an unprecedented third straight Women’s World Cup title.

Coach Vlatko Andonovski named 14 World Cup newcomers in his 23-player squad for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, which kicks off on July 20.

The holders and favourites still also have the likes of Rapinoe and Alex Morgan — both headed for a fourth World Cup — and Andonovski is doing nothing to dampen expectations.

“I’m excited about the energy and the enthusiasm that the young players bring, the intensity and the drive as well,” the 46-year-old said before their arrival this week in Auckland.

“I think that will be one of our advantages.”

Injuries to captain Becky Sauerbrunn, striker Mallory Swanson and the talented Catarina Macario have been a blow to the Americans, but the stage is set for their youngsters to shine.

They include the 22-year-old Sophia Smith, the National Women’s Soccer League MVP with Portland last year. She has scored 12 goals in 30 appearances for the USA.

Also among the newcomers are Trinity Rodman, the 2021 NWSL rookie of the year and daughter of former NBA star Dennis Rodman.

There is also the 18-year-old Angel City FC forward Alyssa Thompson, the second-youngest player ever named in a US World Cup squad.

The Americans, chasing a fifth World Cup crown overall, will also be able to count on Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn, all veterans of the 2019 World Cup campaign that saw the Americans triumph against the backdrop of their battle with the US federation for equal pay and benefits.

Their efforts led to a groundbreaking contract with US Soccer, and Morgan said that improved conditions for women players around the world have helped other countries close the gap on the top-ranked USA.

So much so that despite their number one FIFA ranking the US players were careful throughout their send-off media day to refer to themselves as only “one of the best” teams in the world.

They are right to be cautious.

Since beating the Netherlands 2-0 in the 2019 final, the United States missed out on the gold-medal match at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics and had to settle for bronze.

Last year they lost to England, Spain and Germany in quick succession — the first time they had lost three in a row since 1993.

Winning is everything

Andonovski considers it his job to shepherd a dynasty not only through this World Cup but beyond.

But he and his players made it clear that amid all the changes, nothing less than the title in New Zealand and Australia will satisfy them.

“Would I be happy with anything short of a third straight win? No, absolutely not,” Andonovski said.

“Our goal is to win the World Cup. I don’t think anyone on our team thinks anything different.”

The challenge will start early in a group that features the Netherlands in a re-run of the 2019 final, as well as Vietnam and Portugal.

“It’s obviously one of the hardest groups if not the hardest group in the World Cup,” Andonovski said.

“We had to dissect the three different styles, have three different approaches.

“But we think that we have enough time to prepare for them, to get ready for every single one of them separately.

“The goal is to win the group before we move on to the ultimate goal.”

The Americans should easily get out of the group along with the Dutch, but Australia, Spain, Germany and European champions England are all threats in the latter rounds.

Authored by Afp via Breitbart July 12th 2023